Long-term care residents who use Medicare to pay for prescription drugs could be receiving less medications after a study found that “a substantial” amount of enrollees had inadequate or no drug coverage. 

An expansion of the Medicare Part D program could be necessary in order to decrease insufficient coverage, the Northeastern University research team speculated. 

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Investigators used data from more than 330,000 Medicare enrollees who stayed at long-term care facilities for more than 100 days between 2011 and 2013. They found that Medicare Part D was the main drug coverage source for LTC residents — 82.4% relied on the program for their medications — followed by private insurance (8.5%) and the Veterans Administration (0.2%). 

About 29,300 residents, or nearly 9%, had no drug coverage and either paid for all of their medications out-of-pocket or received only temporary drug payment assistance. Another 2,721 residents were identified as having inadequate drug coverage, according to the study. 

“A substantial proportion of Medicare enrollees in long-term care have inadequate or no drug coverage and are receiving less medication than indicated by their health needs,” the authors wrote.

“Long-term care Medicare enrollees without drug coverage or who had private insurance received significantly fewer prescriptions than if they had been enrolled in Medicare Part D,” they added. 

Full findings were published Thursday in Medical Care.