Data Note: Prescription Drugs and Older Adults

This KFF Health Tracking Poll was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The survey was conducted February 14th–24th 2019, among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,440 adults ages 18 and older, living in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii (note: persons without a telephone could not be included in the random selection process). The sample included 290 respondents reached by calling back respondents that had previously completed an interview on the KFF Tracking poll more than nine months ago. This month’s poll also includes an analysis of older Americans age 65 or older (n=606). To obtain a large enough sample, the sampling frame included an oversample of older adults using cell phones (n=26) and landlines (n=75) as well as callbacks to adults who fit the age criterion using the SSRS Omnibus poll (n=136). To efficiently obtain a sample of lower-income and non-White respondents, the sample also included an oversample of prepaid (pay-as-you-go) telephone numbers (25% of the cell phone sample consisted of prepaid numbers) as well as a subsample of respondents who had previously completed Spanish language interviews on the SSRS Omnibus poll (n=11). Both the random digit dial landline and cell phone samples were provided by Marketing Systems Group (MSG).

Computer-assisted telephone interviews conducted by landline (464) and cell phone (976, including 662 who had no landline telephone) were carried out in English and Spanish by SSRS of Glen Mills, PA. For the landline sample, respondents were selected by asking for the youngest adult male or female currently at home based on a random rotation. If no one of that gender was available, interviewers asked to speak with the youngest adult of the opposite gender. For the cell phone sample, interviews were conducted with the adult who answered the phone. KFF paid for all costs associated with the survey with additional funding for the over-sample provided by the John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The combined landline and cell phone sample was weighted to balance the sample demographics to match estimates for the national population using data from the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) on sex, age, education, race, Hispanic origin, and region along with data from the 2010 Census on population density. The sample was also weighted to match current patterns of telephone use using data from the January-June 2018 National Health Interview Survey. The weight takes into account the fact that respondents with both a landline and cell phone have a higher probability of selection in the combined sample and also adjusts for the household size for the landline sample, and design modifications, namely, the oversampling of prepaid cell phones and likelihood of non-response for the re-contacted sample. To ensure accurate representation of the older population, the data were weighted separately for those younger than 65 and those 65 or older. All statistical tests of significance account for the effect of weighting.

The margin of sampling error including the design effect for the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Numbers of respondents and margins of sampling error for key subgroups are shown in the table below. For results based on other subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher. Sample sizes and margins of sampling error for other subgroups are available by request. Note that sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll. Kaiser Family Foundation public opinion and survey research is a charter member of the Transparency Initiative of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

Group N (unweighted) M.O.S.E.
Total 1,440 ±3 percentage points
Adults who currently take prescription medicine 1030 ±4 percentage points
Adults with prescription drug plans 1092 ±4 percentage points
Democrats 473 ±6 percentage points
Republicans 410 ±6 percentage points
Independents 397 ±6 percentage points
Adults, 65 and older 606 ±5 percentage points
Adults, 65 or older, with prescription drug plan 513 ±5 percentage points



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