Too much, too little: It's usually about the money

September, what a terrible month with the loss of the David Letterman and Jon Stewart shows. Well, now I can get to bed an hour earlier.

We could be paying much less

Why do Americans pay a lot more for prescription drugs than people in other advanced countries or even those with certain private insurance plans? In case you don’t know, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate with drug companies to get lower prices, according to the Part D prescription drug program. This is one of the reasons I was against this program when it was first initiated.

The U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs, which is not bound by Medicare’s rules, is able to negotiate their prices and is therefore able to get most of their drugs at half the price that Medicare pays.

One of the higher costs is due to the high price of advertising that the pharmaceutical companies think they are forced to pay to get Americans to buy their drugs. Negotiating prices for prescription drugs could potentially save billions of dollars. If you agree, please call your senators and ask them to vote for the Medicare Price Negotiation Act.

On the hook for someone else’s bills?

As promised last month, I will be writing about filial responsibility.

Filial responsibility laws impose a duty upon third parties, usually (but not always) adult children for the support of their impoverished parent or other relatives. Parents are also perceived to be responsible for their children. Such laws may be enforced by governmental or private entities and may be at the state or national level.

While filial responsibility laws are rarely enforced, there has been speculation that states may begin dusting them off as a way to save on Medicaid expenses. States vary on what factors they consider when they determine whether an adult child has the ability to pay.

You should be aware that when parents or grandparents are no longer able to take care of themselves, as a result of increasing life expectancy, a decision must be made and there is a potential for increased stress on all members of the family unit.

In other words, a parent may be hit with an adult child’s bills or an adult child may be hit with a parent’s bills for any assisted living home that the parent stayed at.

States with these laws are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and also Puerto Rico.

A “filial responsibility law” is not the same thing as the provision in the U.S. federal law that requires a “look back” of five years in the financial records of anyone applying for Medicaid, to insure that the person did not give away assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion takes effect

In Alaska, the Medicaid Expansion program will start Sept. 1, 2015, for those newly-eligible, that is being age 19 to 64 without dependent children and who earn less than $20,328 per year ($1,694 per month) or $27,492 per year ($2,292 per month) for a married couple.

You can apply at or download an application, fill it out and send or take it to a Public Assistance Office.

You must not be eligible for any other type of Medicaid or Medicare.

Editor’s note: At press time, the legislature sued to stop the Medicaid expansion.

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

Roar Online Publication Software and content management solution. Lions Light offers cutting edge software for newspaper and magazine websites.