No Signs COVID Disrupted Hypertension Medication Adherence for Medicare Beneficiaries, but Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persisted
Despite major care disruptions in the initial stage of the COVID pandemic, medication adherence for Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older with hypertension remained high and stable at 86 percent, according to a new AIR study using fee-for-service Medicare claims data from 2018-2020.
However, racial and ethnic disparities in hypertension medication adherence persisted for American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic beneficiaries. The findings in the study's brief suggest that steps by Medicare to relax prescribing requirements during the pandemic, such as allowing early refills and larger quantities of medication, likely helped maintain medication adherence for high blood pressure and prevent racial and ethnic disparities in adherence from worsening.
- Medication adherence remained high and stable (86 percent) through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged 65 and older diagnosed with hypertension.
- Racial and ethnic disparities in hypertension medication adherence persisted for American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic beneficiaries.
- Relaxed Medicare prescribing requirements, such as allowing early refills and larger quantities of medication, likely helped keep medication adherence rates high and prevent worsening disparities among racial and ethnic groups.
- Policymakers should explore ways to improve measurement of medication adherence, particularly focused on reducing health disparities and increasing equity among racial and ethnic groups.