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Dems took on big Pharma, voters like me noticed

prescription drugs, Medicare, Congress, asthma, Biden Administration, penicillin, bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, seniors, Masters, Republicans

The 118th Congress will protect Medicare and prescription drug reforms that Arizonans rely on.

As a lifelong asthma sufferer, I am no stranger to utilizing our healthcare system and the high costs that come with it. By the end of this year, I’ll spend $7,000 out-of-pocket on the medication that keeps me alive. I’m lucky I can afford this at the moment, but many Americans aren’t so fortunate and find themselves delaying care, rationing medicine or traveling to Mexico in search of cheaper prices.

Year after year, older Americans on Medicare have pleaded with elected officials to take on Big Pharma and reduce prescription costs. And year after year, promises never became law, as prescription costs rise. That is until this year, when the Biden Administration enacted the Inflation Reduction Act.

Medicare, asthma, Big Pharma, Congress, Masters, prescription drug costs, Republicans, voters, midterm election

Carol Brown

By the age of 5, I had already been hospitalized 17 times for asthma attacks. Throughout my 66 years, prescription drugs — namely penicillin, bronchodilators, inhaled steroids and asthma biologics — have kept me alive.

But staying alive comes at a steep cost.

Being born with a pre-existing condition meant my monthly premiums on private insurance were always in the thousands. Living with a chronic condition meant I could never take a job that didn’t provide excellent healthcare coverage. It’s even dictated where I can live, as the drier Arizona air is far better for my breathing than my hometown of Levittown, Mich.

When I enrolled in Medicare, I thought I had broken free of the burdens privatized healthcare placed on my life. But instead, I was met with high prescription drug costs and forced to make tradeoffs for what I can and can’t afford while living on a fixed income.

It’s an experience many Medicare recipients share, as 20% of Americans ages 65 and older report difficulty affording their prescription medications. With rising costs hitting Arizona especially hard, many older Arizonans find themselves having to choose whether to fill their prescriptions or purchase food.

My co-pays range depending on when I’ve fallen into the donut hole, a gap where Medicare recipients pay higher co-pays for their drugs until we’ve spent enough to enter the catastrophic coverage phase, where we cover 5% of your prescription costs.

Within the first few months of the year, I’ll spend $2,000 out-of-pocket on prescriptions. By year’s end, I’ll spend another $5,000 on my life-saving medication. Healthcare is consistently my highest expense; it’s more than rent, more than groceries.

Fortunately, it won’t have to be this way much longer now that the Inflation Reduction Act is law. The law finally enables Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, and it caps annual out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000, eliminates the 5% cost sharing in catastrophic coverage, and penalizes drug companies whose price increases outpace inflation.

This legislation will save me around $5,000 annually on the cost of my prescriptions.

My mind is at ease knowing I won’t ever have to spend more than $2,000 on prescription costs. As I get older, I become more vulnerable to other medical conditions. I am relieved that no matter what happens, I can plan my budget to afford the $2,000 co-pay cap.

While I’m excited for what this means for my wallet, I’m more excited for what this means for the millions of Americans who can’t afford their prescriptions.

There are people in my life who can’t afford to fill their medications or forego treatment due to cost. It’s outrageous that we are the only industrialized country to make our seniors choose between food and healthcare.

Before the law was implemented, Republican leaders in Congress introduced a bill repealing the prescription drug provisions to enrich Big Pharma off the backs of America’s seniors. With Republican candidates like Blake Masters campaigning on opposing the law and pundits predicting a “red wave” I feared the new Congress would represent corporate interests more than the wellbeing of older Americans like me.

But to the pundits’ surprise, Arizonans rejected the extremist agenda in the midterm election. With Big Pharma-aligned candidates on the ballot, my decision was a no-brainer, and clearly most Arizonans agree. I’m relieved that the 118th Congress will protect Medicare and prescription drug reforms that Arizonans like me rely on.

Carol Brown is a retiree who lives in Tucson.

 

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