This brief examines the characteristics of credit counseling clients who experienced problems paying for their medications and analyzes which factors affect clients’ ability to pay for prescriptions. The data used in this brief were collected by Clarifi, a leading nonprofit financial counseling provider that serves about 15,000 Philadelphia-area residents each year. In the summer of 2016, Clarifi surveyed a sample of its non-housing counseling clients to document their credit status and medication use.
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Background: Over the past decade, a number of studies have explored how household finances affect individual health outcomes. Medication adherence is a common subject of these studies, as prescription drugs are both potential stressors for already stretched budgets and key elements of successful treatment for many conditions. Even in households that have insurance coverage for prescription drugs, the co-pays required by many insurance plans may be difficult for households to manage, and for households without insurance, prescription drug costs may be prohibitive. But failing to fill a prescription or quitting a medication regimen early can lead to worse overall health in the long run—when patients fail to take medications as directed, their risk of hospitalization increases and their health care costs generally go up (Viswanathan et al. 2012; Roter et al. 1998). Because they may determine the ability to afford medications, then, household finances may also be a determinant of clients’ overall health.
Thus, interventions that support positive financial management behaviors may, in turn, improve individuals’ health. The first step in developing such interventions is understanding the characteristics and needs of those who would benefit from them.