Opinion: Food or medicine? The Dangerous Choice Many Seniors Must Make

You need to keep a roof over your head, keep food in the fridge, and keep track of your medications. But what if you can’t afford all three? What are you doing? The choices are difficult and potentially dangerous.

It’s like that for many Americans, according to a study by GoodRx, a Santa Monica. California-based healthcare company that tracks prescription drug prices across the country.

In 2020, note Amanda Nguyen, Ph.D., a GoodRx health economist, nearly 40% of those polled said paying for prescriptions was financially difficult. Writing in a corporate blog, she added that “over 20% said they struggled to pay for basic necessities like food and shelter as a result.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has put millions of Americans out of work, has obviously made matters worse. Job loss usually means loss of health insurance, forcing people to cut their savings, take on debt “and (make) potentially dangerous changes to their prescribed drug regimen,” Nguyen writes.

In January, another GoodRx poll indicated that the the price of 832 drugs increased by an average of 4.6%. Of these, the company’s Tori Marsh MPH said, 822 were brand name drugs, 175 were specialty drugs (meaning they were probably expensive to start with) and the rest were professionally administered drugs. health care (available only under the supervision of a healthcare professional). . The overall increases appear to be the biggest in years, she said.

The prices of some drugs are rising even faster. The world’s best-selling drug Humira, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease, increased 7.4% in January and 21% in the past three years, according to Marsh. Humira is a cash dispenser for its manufacturer, AbbVie Inc., which has stated that it is responsible for $ 5.152 billion in net revenues in the fourth quarter of 2020 only. The Food and Drug Administration has actually approved five generic versions of Humira, but so far these “biosimilars” (as the industry calls generics) have yet to stop the AbbVie slurping train.

The GoodRx study covered all age groups, but there is no doubt that this kind of price increase can be especially overwhelming for older people, who are likely to be out of the workforce and overly dependent. social security. As I mentioned before, the the average social security recipient receives $ 1,543 per month this year– up just 1.3% from a year ago – and for millions of Americans, it’s the only source of income they have.

So when the cost of a needed drug increases at a faster rate than that, tough choices have to be made.

Marsh says that’s what a lot of people do.

“In 2020, 20.7% of people reported getting into debt or declaring bankruptcy because of the cost of their prescription drugs. Borrowing from friends or family was the most common financial action (16.8%), followed by obtaining loans (5.0%), taking out another mortgage (1.2 %) and bankruptcy (1.0%).

Imagine having to mortgage your house or file for bankruptcy because the combined cost of keeping a roof over your head, food in the fridge, and medicine in the bathroom cabinet is too high. I have a feeling that is not what the term “golden years” is meant to mean.

What can be done about all of this? America’s health care system is a gargantuan mess. We spend more on health care – twice the average for developed countries in fact – but the results are worse, according to that depressing Commonwealth Fund report. Believe me: he’s a downer.

And yet, some proposals revolve around the idea of ​​spending even more money. As a candidate, Joe Biden suggested lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare from five years to 60. But most Americans – 85% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans – want him be lowered further, to only 50 years. according to a 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Where will the money come from? Medicare finances are already shaky. Its Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, for example, will not have enough money to cover all benefit costs from 2024 — around the corner. What happens when millions of new beneficiaries are added to the system? Significantly higher taxes would seem to be the painful answer. Good luck getting a big tax hike from Congress anyway.

And even though the Medicare eligibility age remains at 65, thousands of Americans are becoming eligible daily. Tough choices for millions of people (food, rent, medicine, and more) await. Tell me your story. Do you have to make choices like this? Between food / rent and your medicine? I won’t identify you if you prefer. My email: [email protected]

About Leslie Schwartz

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