Sam Bauman: Why prescriptions cost seniors so much

Stumbled across a slim publication while visiting a friend the other day. It's the Consumer Reports on Health, put out by those people who test all kinds of things for us buyers. It's got a fine reputation and the health publication seems to enhance it. The article I read discussed the high costs of medications for seniors and others.

It was headlined, "Where high drug costs hide," and it was an eye-opener. Seems that as a drug is reaching the end of its last five years of its patented life, its cost soars as the pharmaceutical companies try to wring the last million dollars out of the drug before generic versions emerge.

The last five years for many popular drugs saw increases as much as 305 percent. Example: Boniva went from $119 a prescription in 2007 to $240 now. That's a 102 percent increase for the drug used by many seniors to fight osteoporosis. Happily, there's a generic version out there now.

Sometimes drugmakers alter thea medication slightly, such as offering tablets or oral solutions. Consumer Reports suggests avoiding such "fancy versions" of your medication. And check for generics such as substitutes for the anti-depressant Prozac, which costs $211. Generic comes in at $4 a month.

And Consumer Reports found wide variations in the cost of prescriptions. This one can be a real surprise, as the prices varied from $179 to $210 for Plavix to as low as $19 and $50. The report lists where the best buys are, but I don't want to get into their specifics without actually checking the figures myself.

The health report has lots more on drugs, and seniors can benefit greatly by looking into the report or just checking it all out on the Internet. If you don't have a computer, the Carson Senior Center has several that seniors can use and experts on hand to help.

Missed third part of query

Mary Bangert of Carson City had a couple of questions last week that I answered, chiefly about real estate taxes under the Affordable Care Act and Congress itself opting out of the act. I misplaced her third question, which was a printout of comments by Judge David Kithil of Marble Falls, Texas. He obviously doesn't like the act and has claimed several problems with it.

I'll respond to his claims briefly (Incidentally, there's a fine website that can answer such questions at

Claim 1: "The bill (sic) will provide insurance to all non-citizen U.S. residents, even if they are here illegally." Totally, specifically false.

Claim 2: "The government will have real-time access to individuals' bank accounts and be able to make electronic fund transfers from these accounts." Again, not true in any way.

Claim 3: "The plan will be subsidized for all union members, union retirees and community organizations." Again, nope. Fantasy.

You get the idea, Judge Kithil is angry and doesn't bother with facts. He also lists page numbers for his claims in the act, or HR 3200. Unfortunately, he uses numbers for earlier versions of the legislation, making such numbers useless.

There was a passing reference to the cancer treatment limitations under the act. Based on statistical evidence, Medicare will end cancer treatments for those 76.5 years and older. That's true.

Kithil has a right to complain about the Affordable Care Act, as do all of us. But he doesn't have the right to distort it and scare a lot of seniors. All of us have the right to examine the act's provisions and to make fact-based decisions.

The Rising Above Partisanship staged a very good presentation on the act last Tuesday in Carson City. Former Appeal Editor Barry Smith moderated the event, which featured Dr. Susan Pintar, public health officer for Carson City; Steven Wiener, office of regional director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, District IX; and Jon Hager, Silver State Insurance Exchange director, state of Nevada.

The audience got an earful of how the Affordable Care Act works. More presentations like this could clear up much of the cloudiness of the act.

* Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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