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New health care cost containment strategy – die.

April 15, 2016

With the certainty that we will have a new President in 2017, and many members of Congress up for re-election as well, what real good will changing the portrait and headshots do for most Americans?

Americans like “Madge” for instance.

“Madge” is 72 years young, lives on a miniscule annuity payment ($90/mo) and her Social Security ($943/mo). Due to arthritis affecting her hips that arose years after she was injured in an accident, Madge took early retirement at 62.

In the last six months, her generic drug costs to treat her arthritis have gone from $16/month to $57 in just six months.  Madge doesn’t have Part D, since her drug costs have been far below even the cheapest plan she could purchase. She can’t buy it now, because the government penalizes her for saving it money in the past.

By assessing a penalty for each month she failed to sign up for Part D, a plan that would have cost $50 a month then would now cost almost $63. The penalty, which is assessed if you don’t already have “creditable”, as in government approved drug coverage, works like this:

The late enrollment penalty is 1 percent for every full month that you were eligible but went without Plan D. That total percentage is then multiplied by the “national base beneficiary premium,” which for 2016 is $34.10. The resulting amount is rounded to the nearest 10 cents and added to your monthly premium.

Obviously, if Madge couldn’t afford fifty dollars 84 months ago, she’s not likely to be signing up now when it’s over $62. Oh and by the way…one of the drugs she uses isn’t even on the list of covered drugs.

Now, an increase of $41 a month may not sound like a lot to most of us.

To Madge, it means turning off her $29 cable TV plan and her $10/month cell phone.  She already shut off her landline, and reluctantly gave up her aging Cocker Spaniel, because she couldn’t afford his medicine and hers.

At 72, Madge is trying to find a job that she can do sitting down, since her arthritic hips won’t allow her to cashier anymore.

That’s the real life side of a growing scandal in healthcare.

It isn’t just seniors either. Anyone who uses generic or specialty drugs is seeing this up close and personal every time they go to the pharmacy. Many of these drugs are literally life-saving.

Apparently, our government thinks they can study this problem into submission.

It isn’t as though our elected officials don’t know this is happening. The Senate Special Committee on Aging, chaired by Senator Susan Collins, (R-Maine), the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, and a Democratic task force are all “studying” the issue.

It also isn’t as though this just came to light.  The aforementioned Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held hearings on the problem in 2014.

What legislation arose from that hearing?   None.

How many big pharma companies are in court over blatant profiteering?  None.

How many 2016 presidential contestants are addressing this specific issue?  None.

On the Democratic side, the party that has historically worked it’s butt off to corral the senior vote is far more interested in big banks than big pharma.

On the Republican side, while Donald Trump says he is properly outraged at the way healthcare in general is administered and its cost overruns, given his lack of in-depth knowledge it’s unlikely he would even know about this specific problem.

As a party, Republicans have not been able to shed their “push-granny-over-the-cliff”  image.

It would probably be so much more convenient for politicians if all the chronically ill or just plain old people would just play along and die.

Unfortunately for our “freely and fairly  elected” officials that’s not likely to happen quickly enough.

Even those persons who profess to care about the problem can’t seem to come up with a solution, preferring instead to continue the fiction that there is little consumers can do to end the problem.

In the meantime, perhaps we should make the Madges of the world part of our public displays of discontent. It works for niche activist groups, so why not for all of us?

At the very least, make sure the person you are backing for President or Congress is as informed as they can be, and hold them accountable.

If you want to contact Senator Collins ( she’s not running for reelection this year), you can find her information, as well as information on any other member of Congress here.

From → op-ed

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