Health Care Reform

AARP Board Chair Tells Senate: Close the Doughnut Hole

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–March 24, 2010.  Today, AARP Board Chair Bonnie M. Cramer, M.S.W., joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Members of Congress to urge the Senate to help millions of seniors with the high cost of prescription drugs by closing the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap. Excerpts from Cramer’s remarks follow:

“For years, our members have told us about the challenges they face in getting quality, affordable health care. They’ve told us about the waste and fraud in Medicare they’ve both seen and experienced. They’ve told us about being denied coverage or being charged more for coverage based solely on their age.

“And they’ve told us about the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs and the dreaded gap in Medicare drug coverage known as the ‘doughnut hole.’ For too many people in Medicare, the doughnut hole forces them to make the tough decision to split pills in half or even go without the medicines they need.

“Take Pat Engelhardt from Delaware for example. Pat suffers from conditions including high blood pressure and thyroid issues. Pat was taking three non-generic drugs, but was able to work with her doctor to bring that number down to one.

“Pat and her husband live on a fixed monthly income, and by anyone’s definition, they live frugally. Pat’s husband only buys groceries when he has a coupon for the item or when items are for sale. They rarely visit their children, who are spread across the nation. And they grow their own vegetables and berries.

“Even though she’s taking mostly generics, Pat will likely enter the doughnut hole this summer, her third year in a row meeting this threshold. This period without drug coverage helps push her drug costs to between four and five thousand dollars a year.

“Pat and her husband struggle to meet the financial obligation of keeping her healthy. In fact, Pat has skipped taking one of her prescriptions in order to avoid the high cost of her medication.

“Today, we’re this close to providing Pat and millions of other older Americans in a similar situation the security of knowing that they can count on taking the prescription drugs they need without skipping days, splitting bills or missing meals.

“The bill passed by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate would help them by providing $250 in relief for people who fall into the doughnut hole this year. Starting next year, Pat and other seniors in the doughnut hole will benefit from a 50 percent discount on their brand name medications, and they will continue to receive increasing help with their brand and generic drug costs until the coverage gap closes completely in 2020.

“Senator Reid and his colleagues in both chambers have already passed a strong foundation for health reform, but we’re all here today because we understand the work is not done. We need the Senate to act now and pass, without any amendments, this final piece of health care reform legislation, which includes key priorities of AARP members and all older Americans, including closing the doughnut hole for everyone.

“We appreciate the commitment made by President Obama, Senator Reid and others to help people like Pat and the millions more struggling to afford the cost of the prescription drugs.

“I want to thank Senator Reid for his leadership in the health care reform debate. Our Association looks forward to working with him and the rest of the Senate as we take another historic step towards improving America’s health system for Pat and for the millions of other Americans who need quality, affordable health coverage now.”