AARP ‘People’s Hearing’ Highlights Rx Struggles
Older Americans tell Congress how high prescription drug prices are affecting their lives
Kitty Ruderman does without the medicines she needs for high cholesterol and osteoporosis because she can’t afford them on her fixed income. And U.S. Navy veteran Keith Coe and his wife ration the insulin she needs to treat her diabetes because they can’t afford the $650 to pay for the doses her doctor has prescribed.
These are just two stories that were the focus of AARP’s “People’s Hearing” on May 18. The event, which is available to be viewed above, was designed to tell members of Congress why they must do something to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Congress has an opportunity to lower the prices of your medications by allowing Medicare to negotiate. Let’s make some noise and show Congress why they need to lower drug prices NOW.
AARP’s Fair Rx Prices Now campaign has been fighting for three reforms that could help older Americans afford their lifesaving medications: Allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drugmakers; place a cap on Part D out-of-pocket costs; and levy penalties on companies that raise medication prices higher than the rate of inflation.
“Not being able to afford the prescription drugs they need is a very real struggle for millions for Americans,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “It’s vitally important that policymakers hear these stories. American families need relief from skyrocketing prescription drug prices, and they need it now.”
The hearing featured comments from AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, individual stories from Americans across the country who are struggling to pay for their prescription drugs, a poll of viewers on their concerns about affording their medicines, and AARP research on the rapid rise of prescription prices. People tuning into the event were asked whether they were concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs and 99 percent said they were.
At the hearing, Ruderman, 75, who lives in New York City, talked about how her Social Security benefits and modest pension are not enough to pay for the medications she needs to treat her high cholesterol and osteoporosis.
“My doctor has repeatedly prescribed medications, and then I go to the pharmacy and have to decline them due to how much it would cost me,” Ruderman says. “Congress needs to bring some relief from this madness now.”
Coe’s wife, Lisa, takes 12 prescriptions, and the couple spends about $900 a month on those medications. The single biggest cost is insulin, which they ration. “Although Lisa’s doctor has repeatedly told us that this rationing is detrimental to her health, we just don’t have much of a choice,” Coe says in his prepared remarks, read by a staff member from the AARP Arizona office. “We must regularly decide between paying for her medications versus paying for other day-to-day expenses. We are struggling financially and emotionally, and it seems like nobody cares.”
Dena Bunis covers Medicare, health care, health policy and Congress. She also writes the “Medicare Made Easy” column for the AARP Bulletin. An award-winning journalist, Bunis spent decades working for metropolitan daily newspapers, including as Washington bureau chief for the Orange County Register and as a health policy and workplace writer for Newsday.