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Opinion:   Editor, www.seniorark.com      Updated October 29, 2015

Congress and the President had a golden opportunity to make a master stroke for Seniors. Imagine, prescription coverage for all Medicare recipients! An older American could rise up each day with one less worry: at least the meds would be covered. Finally we would have caught up with the rest of the civilized world in providing total care for at least one portion of our population. The lead weight that hung over the heads of Seniors for so long would disappear. Life-saving drugs could now be had by all.  For some it would mean funds are now there to buy more nutritious foods. For others, the thermostat could go up a few degrees in the winter. For still more it would mean the ability to gas up the car, or meet the apartment rent without fear. Perhaps the aging pet could see the vet for the first time in years. Just having the weight of fear removed would add spring to the step, and hope for the future. Seniors, including this one, would lift up this Republican Congress and  President Bush as heroes.  This administration and this (at the time of passage of the program in 2006) congress would have been elevated in the hearts of Seniors forever.

So then, what have they done? They gave us Part "D". "D" is a near failing grade in most settings, and also in this one. At best it was a "stingy" program for Seniors, riddled with confusion and the opportunity for greed on the part of insurers and drug companies. But  at least it was a beginning toward  prescription coverage; one that is now being rehabilitated by Obamacare.   At the worst it becomes a government budget buster, (the administration said it would cost $400 billion over 10 years, while the Congressional Budget Office says it will be three times that amount--$1.2 trillion.) But it still failed to meaningfully provide the valuable medications Seniors will need in the future.  My fear is that the drug and insurance companies will use it as a wild, drunken party, and the conservative elements in Congress will kill it completely? Even now we are hearing about huge prices being charged Seniors for drugs purchased in the "doughnut hole", which now is being closed by Obamacare. Previously, Seniors may have purchased these drugs for much less at Canadian Pharmacies (where the country actually negotiates for lower prices), or were offered discounts by manufacturers based on income levels. Many drug companies have now taken back the offer of these discounts. So many are now at risk, doing without critical drugs they cannot afford in the doughnut hole, waiting for the program to start over again each January.


 Congress has to do better. There is a solution. Congress should revamp Part D: Eliminate all the private insurance plans, make prescription coverage a simple, direct benefit from Medicare and negotiate drug prices in bulk with the pharmaceutical industry the way the Department of Veterans Affairs does. Under this program, medications already cost 46% MORE than the prices the Veterans Administration has negotiated for its folks. I suspect that gap will widen as lobbyists lurk around the pocketbooks of the Congress.

YOU have the power to assure that changes will be made in the program. Go to the SeniorARK "links"/"government" page. You will see links to email the president, senators, and your representative. They DO pay attention to these emails. 

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