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The Valley Reporter
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Affordable health care for senior citizens

By Brenda Viens

The other day I received in the mail information regarding my Medicare D plan. As I read about the changes to my plan for 2010 I was outraged by the drastic changes for prescription coverage. In addition to a $6.10 rise in the premium there was a $110 increase in the deductible. Also, there was an increase in the limit for initial coverage stage from $2,700 for 2009 to $2,830 for 2010, an increase of $130, plus the coverage gap went from $4,350 in 2009 to $4,550 in 2010, an increase of $200. 

Those increases alone amount to over $446 for 2010. Then there was the formulary "list of covered drugs." My plan went from covering my husband's 10 prescribed medications to covering only two. Now I have to find another company that will ensure that my husband can get his medications. How is it that drug companies and insurance companies can micro-manage a patient's medications or health care by a nonqualified person making those types of decisions regarding a patient's health? 

They have quantity restrictions on drugs and step therapy plans on certain medications and prohibit brand prescriptions unless you jump through hoops and force you to try cheaper medications that sometimes don't work as well just to ensure their own profits. You have to fight for every medication your doctor prescribes to maintain your health. 

Clearly these restrictions were put in place when the Medicare D plan was passed in Congress to benefit the drug and insurance company's profits. If my husband and I were not on the VPHARM state assistance plan for out-of-pocket costs for premiums, co-pays, prescriptions through the "donut hole" would have been over $6,000 in 2009 and would increase to close to $8,000 a year in 2010 for just prescription medications.

Between the cost of prescription drug plan premiums, deductibles, the famous "donut hole" gap and our supplemental health care insurance, our health costs would run close to $13,000 a year. That is close to half of our limited Social Security income. We are among the many that don't have other retirement income to supplement our Social Security income. This is one reason why so many senior citizens are angry and concerned about their Medicare benefits and what Congress is doing to the senior citizens of America.

They say that the health care reform bill will be paid for with taxes on the wealthier citizens and cuts in Medicare. What exactly do they mean "cuts in Medicare?" Are they talking about getting their act together and clamping down on Medicare fraud so senior citizens are not paying for the greed of felons who rip off Medicare each year? Are they going to reign in the drug companies and insurance lobbyists so they don't influence the politicians to ensure their company profits when they write the health care bill? 

Are they going to close the famous gap of the "donut hole" in the Medicare D program which was put in the program previously to ensure drug and insurance company profits? Are they going to ensure the senior citizens just and affordable prescription drug coverage? Will seniors still have to choose whether to eat, buy fuel, pay their monthly bills or cut out their medications to survive? Will Medicare health coverage still be intact after this bill is passed and ensure all senior citizens good solid health care?

 If the federal government had been doing its job correctly we wouldn't have lost millions of dollars from the Medicare system in the first place and the senior citizens of this country wouldn't be struggling every day just to survive. There is a lot more I would like to say, but time is limited on both sides and others have come to speak their piece. 

Therefore, I will conclude with this, that the bottom line, you as our senators and politicians have the power to do the right thing for its senior citizens at the state level. You are the last line of defense and accountability between whether the senior citizen is taken care of with dignity and assured a quality of life or whether they are kicked to the curb because they are old and ailing with health problems not of their choosing. How do you honestly and truthfully answer all questions I have put forth to you today and assure all senior citizens that their right to a healthy life is in your capable hands and you will use all the power you have available to assure that their Medicare benefits are improved and not damaged or taken away by a new affordable health care for all?

Viens lives in Fayston.

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