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April 25th, 2012
Medication use among some heart disease sufferers was often dependent on coverage.

Converting medicare supplement leads into sales opportunities are important because without coverage, insurance customers often neglect treatments they need to stay healthy.

According to a recent study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, individuals who paid for heart medication only through Medicare were nearly 60 percent more likely not to take their meds during periods of time in which they weren't covered, compared to those who had Part D prescription drug coverage or some other supplementary plan.

The study, which was performed by researchers from Harvard Medical School, looked at approximately 122,260 heart disease patients who had a gap in Medicare coverage sometime in 2006 or 2007. They then compared these individuals with just under 4,000 Medicare beneficiaries who did not have supplementary insurance to another group of 4,000 with extra coverage.

Jennifer Polinski, the study's principal author and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, noted how affordability was often a determinant of whether or not patients took their heart medication.

"Rather than prompting patients to switch to lower-cost alternatives, we found that sudden exposure to 100 percent of drug costs in the Part D coverage gap led to abrupt discontinuation of essential cardiovascular medications," said Polinski. "Any drug insurance policy that negatively influences essential cardiovascular drug use needs to be changed."

The AHA notes that certain provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could help close the coverage gaps Medicare beneficiaries often experience. Some reforms are already in place, such as Medicare recipients who get a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs and 7 percent off generic drugs during spans of time in which they're not covered. These stipulations may change, however, should the Affordable Care Act be altered by legislators or struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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