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May 2016

Drug Pricing Options Proposed, Presupposed, Opposed ... While Seniors Still Left Biting the Pill – Or Not

Washington Watch


Most Americans and leading presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle support the idea that the federal government should lower drug prices. But it's not likely to happen any time soon even though the Obama administration and Congress are considering some proposals and ideas moving in that direction.


This is a key issue for the 55 million seniors on Medicare. A recent Stanford Center on Longevity study found that almost half (47 percent) of Americans age 75 and older took five or more prescription drugs in 2011, nearly double the 24 percent that did so in 1999. At the same time, the comparable percentage for Americans 65 to 74 also shot up from 23 percent in 1999 to 33 percent in 2011.


Legislative gridlock continues in Washington, D.C. with the pharmaceutical industry retaining a huge amount of influence. At the same time, the American health care system is structured so as to limit government intervention. It would take the next president getting workable majorities for his or her party in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in order to get the votes needed to change the law – if a consensus could be reached on what to do.


For now, legislative action has essentially stopped as lawmakers look to the November elections. Here are some of the options being discussed, their potential impact and the possibilities of success. Some facts first: Money matters when it comes to influencing Congress and the federal government. Large changes would require congressional action, where pharmaceutical companies and related businesses spent more than $235 million on lobbying last year – more than any other industry.


Also, a provision included in the 2003 law that set up Medicare Part D giving prescription drug coverage to seniors, specifically bars Medicare from negotiating drug prices.


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A Message of Hope from Mom

Senior Moments


Hope is the thing with feathers 

that perches on the soul 

and sings the tune without words 

and never stops at all 

-Emily Dickinson 


My wife, Susan, was three thousand miles away in San Francisco with our daughter, Amy, who was in the hospital recovering from a medical emergency. Amy was recovering, but the whole experience had left me drained and discouraged about the future because of Amy's recurring health issues.


It didn't help my emotional state that Susan's rental car was broken into the first night she was at the hospital. The thief broke a back window and took her GPS and Kindle, and scattered her clothes along the sidewalk.


When Amy left the hospital, Susan decided to stay with her to help in her recovery.


Although necessary, Susan's absence increased my discouragement because she was the keystone of my support system


When my mother passed away many years before, I had gone on a day trip to the seashore resort of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, and found it a helpful, soothing experience. I decided to return there, hoping that it would help me feel better during the current crisis.


On the morning I was going to leave, I started to have second thoughts about going. My energy level was so low from all that had happened; I just didn't feel like taking a long drive.


However, I started thinking about a particular spot on a man-made channel in Point Pleasant that I had gone to right after my mother had passed.


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