U.S. News and World Report details how Seniors Are Facing Higher Prescription Drug Prices.
“Premiums are going up. Deductibles are going up,” said Tricia Neuman, a Medicare expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “There is some potential to save a lot of money by switching plans.”
Government spending on the program also has risen significantly, driven by pricey new drugs, notably for hepatitis C infection. The cost for the hepatitis drugs in the Medicare program is expected to be $9.2 billion this year, nearly doubling from 2014. Because of the prescription program’s financial structure, taxpayers cover most of the cost for expensive medications. Three out of four adults infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers, the group now entering Medicare.
Also known as “Part D,” Medicare’s prescription plan serves about 40 million older and disabled people. Benefits are provided through a variety of insurance arrangements. Stand-alone drug plans that work with traditional Medicare are the most popular, accounting for more than half of beneficiaries — about 24 million people.
Sal Natale, a retired dentist who lives near Tampa, Florida, said prescription premiums for him and his wife are going up about 30 percent next year, and he doesn’t see a good alternative.
“I’m just going to grin and bear and hope it starts moderating,” Natale said. The couple is signed up in the Humana Enhanced plan, one of the top 10. Nationally, premiums for that plan are going up by about $13 a month, according to the Kaiser foundation.
The pharmaceutical industry is also grin and bearing but for a different reason. The largest grin belongs to a man named Billy Tauzin…
Central to this effort was PhRMA president, CEO and top lobbyist Billy Tauzin, a longtime Democratic member of Congress who switched party affiliations after Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994. By switching parties Tauzin was able to maintain his influence and even rose to be Chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Tauzin became the poster child of Washington’s mercenary culture. He crafted a bill to provide prescription drug access to Medicare recipients, one that provided major concessions to the pharmaceutical industry. Medicare would not be able to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs and reimportation of drugs from first world countries would not be allowed. A few months after the bill passed, Tauzin announced that he was retiring from Congress and would be taking a job helming PhRMA for a salary of $2 million.
Tauzin’s job change became fodder for a campaign ad that then presidential candidate Barack Obama ran in the spring of 2008 simply titled “Billy.” It featured the candidate, sleeves rolled up, talking to a salon of gasping Americans about the ways of Washington. “The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies. And you know what, the chairman of the committee, who pushed the law through, went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year.”
The gang at Pharma aren’t done grinning yet as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership explicitly protects brand name drugs from money-saving generics, costing consumers as they pay more for the same drugs without the brand name profits.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would provide large pharmaceutical firms new rights and powers to increase medicine prices and limit consumers’ access to cheaper generic drugs. This would include extensions of monopoly drug patents that would allow drug companies to raise prices for more medicines and even allow monopoly rights over surgical procedures. For people in developing countries involved in the TPP, these rules could be deadly – denying consumers access to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer drugs.
The TPP would also establish new rules that could undermine government efforts to contain rising medicine prices in developed countries like the United States. A leaked TPP text could expose taxpayer-funded public health programs to pharmaceutical company attacks and constrain future policy reforms to reduce prescription drug costs for Americans. The text explicitly binds Medicare to TPP rules that would limit proposed policy changes to tamp down healthcare costs for seniors.
The passage of the TPP would transform the pharmaceutical industry grin into a cackling laugh while seniors and the rest of America anguishes over their empty wallets and purses.
It doesn’t have to be this way. University of Massachussetts-Amherst Economics Professor Gerald Friedman has conducted a study that show how Medicare for All would save billions while improving the nations health care...
Upgrading the nation’s Medicare program and expanding it to cover people of all ages would yield more than a half-trillion dollars in efficiency savings in its first year of operation, enough to pay for high-quality, comprehensive health benefits for all residents of the United States at a lower cost to most individuals, families and businesses.
That’s the chief finding of a new fiscal study by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. There would even be money left over to help pay down the national debt, he said.
Friedman says his analysis shows that a nonprofit single-payer system based on the principles of the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676, introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and co-sponsored by 45 other lawmakers, would save an estimated $592 billion in 2014. That would be more than enough to cover all 44 million people the government estimates will be uninsured in that year and to upgrade benefits for everyone else.
“No other plan can achieve this magnitude of savings on health care,” Friedman said.
Friedman said the savings would come from slashing the administrative waste associated with today’s private health insurance industry ($476 billion) and using the new, public system’s bargaining muscle to negotiate pharmaceutical drug prices down to European levels ($116 billion).
“These savings would be more than enough to fund $343 billion in improvements to our health system, including the achievement of truly universal coverage, improved benefits, and the elimination of premiums, co-payments and deductibles, which are major barriers to people seeking care,” he said.
Friedman said the savings would also fund $51 billion in transition costs such as retraining displaced workers from the insurance industry and phasing out investor-owned, for-profit delivery systems.
Over the next decade, the system’s savings from reduced health inflation (“bending the cost curve”), thanks to cost-control methods such as negotiated fees, lump-sum payments to hospitals, and capital planning, would amount to an estimated $1.8 trillion.
“Paradoxically, by expanding Medicare to everyone we’d end up saving billions of dollars annually,” he said. “We’d be safeguarding Medicare’s fiscal integrity while enhancing the nation’s health for the long term.”
Friedman said the plan would be funded by maintaining current federal revenues for health care and imposing new, modest tax increases on very high income earners. It would also be funded by a small increase in payroll taxes on employers, who would no longer pay health insurance premiums, and a new, very small tax on stock and bond transactions.
“Such a financing scheme would vastly simplify how the nation pays for care, restore free choice of physician, guarantee all necessary medical care, improve patient health and, because it would be financed by a program of progressive taxation, result in 95 percent of all U.S. households saving money,” Friedman said.
Democratic candidates for President, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’ Malley all have comprehensive plans to make healthcare more affordable while addressing the issues that put seniors at risk of losing their savings and lifestyle to the profits of a bloated industry.
The Republicans also have a plan which you can learn more about here.