Study: Early O-Care enrollees sicker than average patient


Early enrollees in ObamaCare's insurance exchanges were sicker than the average patient, according to new data on their medication usage.

A report by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts found that new exchange patients were more likely to have specialty drug prescriptions than patients off the exchanges.

Specialty medications — such as drugs to treat HIV, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis — represented six of the 10 most expensive drugs used by exchange patients, according to the company. Among commercial policyholders, they accounted for only four in 10.

The proportion of medications specifically to treat HIV was nearly four times higher in the exchanges than in commercial health plans, the study also found.

Researchers studied prescriptions made in January and February, and their results suggest that ObamaCare's private coverage options were initially most attractive to sick people.

Of course, it was widely expected that sick people without insurance would be the first to sign up for the exchanges. 

The administration and other supporters of the law are hoping the rush of people who signed up for a plan in the final month included a disproportionate number of healthy people looking for insurance. 

The Obama administration has not yet released the age breakdown of exchange enrollees, but insurers reported seeing more sign ups from young people as last month's deadline neared.

The proportion could vary widely by state and health plan, driving up costs in some areas while keep them stable in others.