September 26, 2011
In March 2010, 69 percent of all private industry workers had access (ability to receive benefits) to outpatient prescription drug coverage and 50 percent actually received outpatient prescription drug benefits. The takeup rate, which is the percentage of workers with access to outpatient prescription drug coverage who actually participated in this benefit, was 73 percent.
Outpatient prescription drug coverage varied widely by worker and establishment characteristics.
Higher wage workers (the highest 25 percent of wage earners) had greater access and participation in outpatient prescription drug coverage than lower wage workers (the lowest 25 percent). Participation for the lowest 25 percent of wage earners was just 21 percent, compared with 70 percent for the highest 25 percent of wage earners. The takeup rate for low-wage workers was significantly less than that for high-wage workers, meaning that a larger percentage of lower wage workers did not accept coverage.
Outpatient prescription drug coverage also varied by establishment size. Workers in establishments with 500 or more workers had a 67-percent participation rate, as opposed to 38 percent for smaller establishments with 1 to 49 workers.
These data are from the National Compensation Survey – Benefits program. To learn more, see the Program Perspectives for August 2011, "Outpatient Prescription Drug Coverage" (PDF). Employees are considered to have access to a benefit plan if it is available for their use. Participation is the percentage of employees who actually enroll in a benefit plan. The takeup rate is the percentage of workers with access to a plan who participate in the plan.