Kathleen C. Buckwalter
In many respects 1999 was a very disappointing year politically for advocates of older adults and supporters of aging-related causes. However, in the forthcoming election year there is hope that legislation will be passed in key areas, and a major topic of debate in both presidential and congressional campaigns is sure to be prescription drug coverage. According to data presented in Aging Today, the average cost of prescription medications increased 40% in the past 5 years and currently is approximately $37.38 (Rosenblatt, 2000).
Concurrently, consumer copayments for prescriptions also are increasing at an alarming rate for those who have insurance but are on fixed incomes. Approximately 70% of individuals who visit their doctors receive a prescription, in part because consumer demand to "get something" is high and because doctors want to keep their patients happy. Last year several bills were introduced without success in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries. However, recently President Clinton mentioned coverage of prescription drugs in his State of the Union address, Presidential hopeful Senator John McCain has set forth a block grant proposal for states to help low-income elderly individuals pay for drugs, and a Republican task force has been constituted that is examining drug coverage for older adults ("Health Care Will Be 'Hot IsSUe,'" 2000). Among the other ideas circulated are tax credits for low-income older adults and group drug purchasing to help offset the exorbitant costs of many commonly prescribed medications. Senior advocacy groups such as the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) are fully behind the passage of a comprehensive drug benefit package for Medicare beneficiaries, but the issue is whether or not Congress can find the funds for such a comprehensive plan. Keeping in mind that nearly 400 new medications have been introduced in the past 10 years and many more are in various stages of development (Rosenblatt, 2000), legislative concerns about prescription drug coverage for older adults is both timely and significant.
To assist older adults, the NCOA has produced a brochure explaining coverage that currently is available. The brochure is entitled, Consumer Guide to Prescription Drug Coverage in Medicare HMO/Managed Care Plans, and gerontological nurses can advise their patients and families to obtain copies by writing the NCOA at 409 3rd Street SW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20024 or by calling them at (202) 479-1200.
- Rosenblatt, R.A. (2000). Drug Ad Boom Raises Concerns. Aging Today, 21(1).
- Health Care Will Be "Hot Issue," But Prescription Drugs Will Wait for 2001. (2000, January 7). Older Americans Report, 24(1), 5-6.