Prescriptions a concern for seniors

One of the single greatest concerns for seniors in America is the rising cost of prescription drugs, and although most private insurance policies cover prescription drugs, Medicare does not.

On average, seniors fill 18 prescriptions a year and take four to six prescription drugs a day, making this the largest out-of-pocket health care cost for older Americans. Yet 75 percent of seniors, - 3 out of every 4 - lack decent dependable, private-sector coverage of prescription drugs, and at least 13 million Medicare beneficiaries have absolutely no prescription drug coverage at all.

Seniors in Nevada are especially hard hit by the high cost of prescription drugs, paying at least double what insurance companies pay for the top five selling medicines for older Americans. Additionally, a recent study by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform (Minority Staff) found that older Americans and others who pay for their own drugs are charged more for their prescription drugs than favored customers such as health maintenance organizations and the federal government.

Although some options such as Medigap or Medicare+Choice exist, prescription coverage under such plans is very limited and often unstable. For example, the recent announcement of one of Nevada's largest HMOs that it would no longer

participate in the Medicare+Choice program, forced thousands of Nevadans to look for prescription coverage alternatives.

Because I do not think seniors should be forced to choose between paying for prescription drugs or paying for food or electricity or shelter, I support creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit. New drugs are among the greatest medical advances in years, reducing heart attacks, minimizing deaths from cancer, and slowing the progress of AIDS. Yet seniors, who have the greatest

need for prescription drugs and the least ability to pay for them, often do not have access to such vital medical care.

In addition, prescription drugs may offer more effective treatment for conditions that previously required hospitalization or surgery. This is another reason why, now more than ever, we need a well managed prescription drug program that can actually save money for Medicare by reducing the need for more expensive treatments such as hospital stays.

Prescription drugs are a necessary component of modern medicine, especially for those older Americans who are reliant on medication to maintain healthy, active lifestyles. Drug coverage has become a key component for almost all private and

public health insurance coverage-except for Medicare. It's time that our nation's seniors stop having to choose between paying for medicine or paying for meals. I will work hard to see that a decent and dependable prescription drug

benefit becomes a standard part of Medicare coverage.


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