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Brand-name Drug Choices Drive State’s High Medicare Costs

Connecticut seniors on Medicare are more likely to take sedatives for insomnia and medications for depression than their counterparts across the country, according to a new report by Dartmouth researchers. An analysis of state data in a national report by the Dartmouth Atlas Project also shows that Connecticut’s Medicare program relies heavily on brand-name drugs, versus generics, especially in wealthy towns in Fairfield County – a factor that could be contributing to the state’s ranking in the top 10 nationally in prescription drug spending per patient. Connecticut seniors spent an average of $2,795 on medications in 2010 – 45 percent higher than the lowest-spending state, Minnesota, and the highest rate in New England. The new report provides an in-depth look at how prescription drugs are used by Medicare beneficiaries, age 65 and older, in the program’s Part D drug benefit, which had 37 million enrollees in 2012. It shows wide variations in the use of both effective and risky drugs among the 306 regional health care markets across the U.S.

While the underlying health status of populations is a factor in prescription drug use, “it really does not explain the variations in drug use intensity that we observed,” said Dr. Nancy Morden, a lead author of the study.

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School lunch graphic

Childhood Hunger Rises Even In Wealthy, Rural Towns

What do some of the wealthiest communities along Connecticut’s “Gold Coast” in Fairfield County have in common with the poorest towns in rural Windham County? Both counties include a growing number of families relying on federally funded free and reduced-price school meals to feed their children during tough economic times. Hunger among school-age children in Connecticut is on the rise and experts do not expect the trend to change soon given the state’s 9 percent unemployment rate and sluggish economy. “Children in Connecticut are hungry,” said Susan Maffe, president of the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut (SNACT) and director of Food Service for the Meriden public school system. “We know of children who come to school on Monday whose last meal was probably the lunch they ate at school on Friday.”

“Childhood hunger is impacting school districts across the board in urban, rural, even wealthy communities,” said Therese Dandeneau, an education consultant with the Connecticut Department of Education’s school nutrition programs.

Among the evidence of childhood hunger in Connecticut:

Thirty-four percent of all students in Connecticut’s public school districts were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch during the 2010-11 school year, up from 26.4 percent during the 2004-05 school year, according to Connecticut Department of Education statistics.

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