States That Deny Anti-Psychotics to the Poor Have Lots of Mentally Ill People Behind Bars

A team of researchers published data Tuesday in the American Journal of Managed Care showing that prior authorization policies in Medicaid programs have significantly higher rates of severe mental illness in their prison populations.

About a decade ago, Medicaid programs were struggling to keep up with skyrocketing prescription drugs costs. Between 1997 and 2002, drug spending in the program for low-income Americans grew by about 20 percent annually, hitting $23.7 billion in 2010.

Medicaid directors began looking for ways to tamp down on those costs. One of the most popular policies was something called "prior authorization" for a new wave of more expensive, anti-psychotic drugs used mostly to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disease. These policies, in a sense, worked: they helped rein in how much Medicaid spent filling prescriptions.

But in another sense, they may not have worked at all: a growing body of research has begun questioning whether restricting drug spending may have just shifted costs elsewhere — particularly, into the prison system.

American Journal of Managed Care

A team of researchers published data Tuesday in the showing that prior authorization policies in Medicaid programs have significantly higher rates of severe mental illness in their prison populations.

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Source: Vox