(HealthDay News) — Though a growing number of Americans are able to afford prescription medications, millions still have difficulty, according to a study published online Aug. 23 in the American Journal of Public Health.

At the recession’s height in 2009, over 25 million Americans said they had not filled a prescription in the previous year because they couldn’t afford it, the analysis of federal government data showed. Between 1999 and 2009, every age group except seniors found prescription drugs increasingly difficult to afford. Among seniors, the problem was worst in 2004, when 5.4 percent were unable to afford their medicine. In 2006, once the new Medicare Part D program was in place, that number fell to 3.6 percent, the researchers found.

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, most groups now have greater ability to afford prescription drugs. For example, the percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds who couldn’t afford to fill a prescription fell from 10.8 percent in 2010 to 8.2 percent in 2011, as the Affordable Care Act let young adults remain on their parents’ health insurance. Among 26- to 64-year-olds, the percentage who struggled to afford prescriptions fell from 9.1 percent in 2013 to 7.9 percent in 2014, the researchers found.

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However, the study authors estimate that 16.4 million Americans still find it hard to afford prescriptions. That number could be reduced if more states opted to participate in Medicaid expansion, they suggested.

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