Tuesday, October 25, 2005


One of the major problems that are afflicting our nation and that has drawn the attention of every person involved in the adminstration of governmental agencies is the problem of an aging and increasingly ill populace who cannot afford to take advantage of our wonderful modern health care system. They, rightly, point with pride to the great advances in medicine and the diseases that can be prevented with innoculations or cured by treatment and should make us the healthiest nation in the history of the world. However, quite the reverse is true as the costs of health care rise and its affordability for the poor and middle-class falls.

As the current administration and the like-minded of the Congressional majority attempt to convince us that they have our best interests at heart, their actions are nothing short of a travesty. In the interest of those poor and elderly who cannot afford to purchase sufficient prescription medication to maintain life and health, they have given us the new Medicare pharmacy plan. According to this plan, those who are already eligible for Medicaid will receive the same benefits they have now, with the exception that now they will have to find the money for larger co-payments in their meager food budget. The elderly and disabled poor will now have a "drug plan" whereby they will be forced to purchase medications insurance under a plan that is so complicated that even those who will have to work under it can't understand the rules sufficiently to educate the public about it. However, if we do not buy it by the deadline, we will be punished by higher premiums, the amount of which we do not yet know at this time. We are told that "most" will have to begin by paying about $35 per month but that the insurance companies may increase this amount at will.

For many who will be paying these mandatory premiums, there will be no foreseeable savings whatever. First, you will pay at least $444 per year for the premium, and then the first $250 for medicine will come right out of your pocket. Then the insurance will pay 75% of the amount up to a total of $2500, another $625.00 that you will have to pay before you reach the "donut hole". It has been estimated that the average retiree receives Social Security income of perhaps $1000 per month less Medicare premiums. This will add at least $75 per month in fixed expenses that reduce the buying power of that individual even more. When you consider that many prescription medications may cost as much as $10 per dose, it is not hard to pass that mark and enter the donut hole where you may pay as much as $2500 more out-of-pocket before receiving any more assistance. No wonder the average elderly person suffers from attacks of anxiety just trying to figure it out!

When you couple these figures with the information that the projected "cost of living raise" for those on Social Security will be 3% next year, you are seeing the situation in perspective, particularly in light of the fact that there will be an increase in the Medicare Part A and Part B premiums. To sum up, the increase in Social Security will net about $300 per year, from which we subtract perhaps $300 for increased Medicare premiums and the $1666 for prescription "assistance" and we are supposed to be reassured about the health and monetary well-being of the elderly in 2006. (In addition, it will cost the government several trillion dollars over ten years to administer the system.)

Once you have finished the math to realize that you will gain little or no advantage from this "insurance" plan, you will face the task of deciding with which insurance company to purchase the plan. You may go on-line or call each company individually, but you need to know precisely what medications you will need because not all companies pay for all medicines. Most will pay for generics but, if for medical reasons you require a brand-name medicine, you may find that it isn't covered and you must pay for it yourself. This will require a good deal of prescience. If we don't know which diseases we may in future contract or which medication our doctor may prescribe, we may find ourselves in the same predicament. So we must become not only economic wizards, we must predict our own future illnesses and the medicines required to cure or control it. No wonder a query of an elder person regarding this "assistance" is usually met by a blank stare and an expression of puzzlement.

It is nothing more nor less than the same old "bait and switch" that the Bush administration tried to sell the American public for the Social Security program, but this time the elderly are stuck with the "snake oil" with no recourse. Add in the fact that energy prices are expected to double this year and Congress is planning to cut domestic programs such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs in order to "save" enough money to repair the Katrina damage without forsaking another tax cut for the rich and brace yourself for the news of elderly people dying of malnutition and hypothermia in the year to come. At least they may be able to afford to hoard enough medications to allow them to overdose and end their own suffering, further relieving the national budget of that burden.


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