While Congress breaks for Memorial Day Recess this week, AARP members who can't get a break when it comes to affording the medications they need are sending their elected leaders an important message, "There's no recess from high prescription drug costs."
AARP members are asking their federal representatives to enact a Medicare drug benefit this year. Each day between the Memorial Day and Fourth of July Congressional Recess, members of Congress and the media will receive a new story about average Americans confronted with serious problems affording the medications their doctors prescribe.
One of those families is David and Ann Sweet of Spokane, Washington. David, 66, is being treated for heart problems, high blood pressure, and asthma. Ann has some prescription drug coverage for her thyroid, arthritis, blood pressure, and HRT medications, but David has none. With an annual household income of $36,000 a year, the Sweets are paying over $3,900 out-of pocket for their prescribed medications.
According to AARP CEO Bill Novelli, the Sweets are a prime example of the trouble middle-income Americans face when it comes to affording the medications they need.
Novelli said, "Prescription drug affordability is not just a low-income problem. The high cost of drugs hurts those of all incomes. With the rising costs of prescription drugs, their increased importance in the way we treat and prevent disease, the steady elimination of company-sponsored retiree health care and other factors, more people than ever before are feeling the pressure of prescription drug affordability."
About 40 percent of Medicare beneficiaries lack prescription drug coverage at some point of the year. For those that have coverage, it is often inadequate. Novelli said, "Retirees with employer-sponsored health coverage live in fear of someday losing that benefit, a national trend they are witnessing as companies are forced to control run-away prescription drug costs."
Darlene Vierow, 70, of Evans, CO is a retired widow living on a fixed income who currently has prescription drug coverage through her former employer. She is very concerned about what will happen once the insurance expires April, 2004. Prescriptions she takes for osteoporosis and high cholesterol cost $450 a month not counting additional medications she purchases for other health issues. "If my coverage is cut, I don't know what I'll do," she said.
"People are both anxious and hurting," explains AARP's Director of Advocacy Michael Naylor, who has been helping link AARP members to their representatives in Congress so they know how strongly their constituents feel about enacting a Medicare drug plan that will help them.
AARP is fighting for:
- affordable drug coverage in Medicare for everyone;
- coverage that is dependable;
- additional help for people with low incomes;
- protection from very high drug costs;
- lower prices for all Americans.
"With 148 members of Congress from both parties signing an AARP prescription drug pledge promising to enact an affordable benefit during this session, AARP is confident that Congress can get the job done. When they come back to Washington next week, AARP will continue to work with Congress in a non-partisan way to help develop and enact a Medicare drug plan that people can afford. But most importantly, one that provides real relief to Medicare beneficiaries," Naylor said.
A full update of AARP activities related to its prescription drug advocacy can be accessed at www.aarp.org/rx.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; Segunda Juventud, our quarterly newspaper in Spanish; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our Web site, www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.