Precription drug costs rising for the elderly
Published: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 31, 2005 at 10:19 p.m.
As a nurse, a health care consumer, and a daughter of senior parents, I am appalled by the rising cost of prescription drugs in this nation and am especially sensitive regarding the ability of senior citizens to pay for their medications. Retail prescription prices more than doubled the average rate of inflation between 1993 and 2003, and have been the fastest rising component of health care spending since 1998.
Americans pay some of the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Ironically, this burden is often borne by older Americans, who live on fixed incomes. Today, approximately one-third of Medicare beneficiaries have no prescription coverage.
After years of debate, Congress passed a prescription drug benefit package in 2003. Beginning January 2006, the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is scheduled to cover prescription drugs for 40 million Medicare beneficiaries.
But escalating costs, as well as its complexity and implications for some beneficiaries, are causing some lawmakers to call for the delay or repeal of this program. Previous attempts to add a drug benefit to Medicare were signed into law in the late 1980s but quickly repealed. It looks as if history could repeat itself.
It is unacceptable to repeal the implementation of a long awaited prescription drug benefit program. The goal of any federally funded prescription drug program should be to provide coverage to beneficiaries who lack alternative coverage. Prescription coverage could be provided to Medicare beneficiaries who have no alternative coverage with sliding scale co-pays and deductibles. Keep implementation of the program "simple" with a mandate for the uniform administration of the program nationally. Encourage both federal and state governments to work within the proposed budget of $400 billion by phasing in benefits to those without prescription coverage and utilize the government's ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to keep drug pricing below the rate of inflation.
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