Drugs are expensive and so are the plans

News and views from Rita

My friends, I always regret it when I have to report not so good news to you. The Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans for 2015 are the unpalatable ones that I always knew they would be since the program started – there are no good policies that I can suggest to my clients.

The lowest premium (Humana Walmart) is $15.60, but it comes with a whopping $320 deductible. In fact, most of the plans have a deductible of $320. Why do you think that is? Is this collusion? And why is there still a “doughnut hole” when the insurance companies do not contribute anything to the cost of the drugs?

But never mind, if you haven’t changed the program you are on by Dec. 7, you are stuck with it until Oct. 15, 2015,  unless you are on Medicaid also, or have moved out of the state you were living in, or have changed your status in any other way.

Why our drugs are so expensive

“60 Minutes” reported last Sunday on the high price of cancer drugs in the U.S., which shed light on the fact that Medicare has to pay the price determined by the drug companies, since under current law, Medicare is prohibited from negotiating the prices.

Why is that?

The report noted that some cancer patients have gone into bankruptcy in an effort to save their lives. Dr. Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering, noted that a patient could easily be paying $250,000 for two drugs “just to get started.”

Dr. Hagop Kantarjian, chair of the Department of Leukemia at MD Anderson in Houston said, “This is unique to the United States. If you look anywhere in the world, there are negotiations, either by the government or by different regulatory bodies, to regulate the price of the drug. And this is why the prices are 50 percent to 80 percent lower anywhere in the world compared to the United States.”

To me, this is outrageous that the people who have worked their whole lives are finding themselves at the mercy of insurance companies and medical costs, right when they need their coverage the most.

Charitable giving ups and downs

The “Chronicle of Philanthropy,” a leading source of news coverage of the nonprofit world, said in a report just released that Americans who earned $200,000 or more reduced the share of their income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Those earning less than $100,000 donated 4.5 percent more of their income, the report said.

Changes in giving patterns were most pronounced in major cities, where the percentage of income that residents donated dropped markedly between 2006 and 2012.

In Philadelphia and Buffalo, New York, the share of income given to charity fell by more than 10 percent; there was a 9 percent drop in Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington, D.C. The Chronicle’s editor, Stacy Palmer, noted that wealthy donors, overall, were more oriented toward support of the arts and higher education than lower-income donors, and less oriented toward support of social-service charities.

Better reporting for better long term care

The Associated Press has reported that the Obama administration is launching a makeover for Nursing Home Compare, the government website consumers can turn to when a loved one needs long term care. Administration officials said that a key improvement will involve a new electronic reporting system that gathers details on nurse and aide staffing directly from payroll records. Staff-to-patient ratios are one of the most important predictors of quality, and currently the government relies on data reported by the facilities themselves.

One of the problems with the nursing home data was that a lot of self-reporting was not being verified. The use of records provided to the IRS will help alleviate that problem.

Volunteer wanted

I am still looking for a compassionate person, who would like to learn how to help people as I do. I can train you with my resource material. Contact me to learn more.

Rita Hatch volunteers for the Older Persons Action Group’s Medicare assistance program and is an OPAG board member. Call her at 276-1059 in Anchorage or toll-free statewide at 1-800-478-1059. Her email address is ritaopag@gci.net.