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Let me start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  With the inauguration of the new president the country awaits the changes this new administration will be making.  My biggest concern will be, of course, what changes will affect the seniors.  What especially concerns me is what the long range outcome will be when Obamacare is repealed.  I would be the first to say the system has its flaws.  The cost in the past six months has sky-rocketed.  Many HMO’s have pulled out because of the cost factors involved.  If we really think this through, repealing Obamacare will have consequences for Medicare.  It’s highly doubtful any new administration, despite all the primary rhetoric of repealing it, would be foolish enough to cold turkey the plan without a reasonable alternative.

To begin with, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurers to provide free preventative care coverage to anyone receiving Medicare.  If that was halted seniors may end up paying for yearly preventative care visits.  To say nothing of the fact ACA reduced the cost of drug coverage under Medicare Part D.  This resulted in the elimination of the “doughnut hole.”  With ACA the seniors who reach this black hole only have to pay 50% of the cost.  It certainly is not any ideal situation for low income seniors who have trouble paying even 50%.  I would suspect that many low income seniors go without their meds during this time.  Most people do not realize that there are provisions in the ACA to strengthen Medicare.  Repealing the plan could really send Medicare in a tailspin.  For anyone who would like to read more, go to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Bankrupt.  What’s really ironic is the Medicare Hospital Insurance fund is projected to remain solvent for eleven years – longer than before the ACA was passed.

What I would really hope is that someone seriously looks at the high cost of seniors drug use.  If you had to guess what group of Americans take most of the prescription drugs, it would be Seniors.  It’s certain that many of the drugs being prescribed may not be necessary for seniors, but 47% of seniors, age 75 years and older took 5 prescribed drugs in 2011.  That is double what was being prescribed in 1999.  The lobbyists for the drug companies in Washington have lots of money to throw at campaigns so the incentive to lower drug costs doesn’t really have much importance.  Advertising is also playing a large role in the use and cost of prescription drugs.  Why would someone want to take a blood thinner that cost $7.00 a month when you can take the new super drug which does not require blood levels or diet restrictions?  Why?  Because the super drug will cost $800.00 as opposed to $7.00.  I guess we will all have to wait to see what the new coming year will bring.  My advice is to stay vigilant and read all articles that pertain to any new changes to Medicare or prescription drugs.

kathy heren

By Kathy Heren

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