2009-10-02 / Editorial/Opinion

Killing Seniors Softly With Their Veto

The Republicans in the Senate have quietly vetoed the Democratic Party's plan to close the notorious "Donut Hole," in any health care reform proposal because it is "unnecessary" and "too costly." For those of you who have not yet reached the age where you can be called a "senior" or "old-timer," the donut hole was built into the Part D Medicare legislation that pays for prescription drugs when the law was first signed by President George Bush. The Democrats wanted all drugs paid for, the Republicans did not want to pay for drugs at all. The compromise was that, after a set dollar amount was paid by Medicare, the senior was on his or her own until the cost of drugs reached catastrophic levels, when the cost was once again picked up. That point reached after which seniors have to pay nearly full price for drugs is called the donut hole. Its cost to seniors is not insignificant, even to those who have private drug coverage. For example, one local woman who has diabetes with all the ailments that attend that debilitating disease, takes a number of drugs, including two that are vital to maintaining her life and health - Lantus (an injectable insulin) and Crestor (prescribed for high cholesterol and blood sugar). During the period she is fully covered by Medicare and her private insurance, she pays $102 for a three-month supply of Lantus and $89.77 for a threemonth supply of Crestor. For that woman, the full coverage period generally lasts until August. For the remainder of the year, she pays $183.97 for three months of the Crestor and $245.01 for three months of her Lantus, more than a 100 percent increase from one month to the next. Some people can afford the increased costs, but many can't. What do they do? Some stop taking their medication, get sick and populate our high-cost hospitals. Or, they simply die. So, the Medicare reform question impacts not only those who have no insurance, but those who do, as well. Not only must those without insurance be covered, but the donut hole must be closed.

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