Opinion: drug prices are rising faster than seniors can keep up


I’m always grateful that MarketWatch readers take the time to write. My focus is on retirement issues, and one of the most common emails I get is about rising drug prices. Average medication rose 4.2% in January – a rate three times faster than the 1.3% increase in Social Security, according to analysis by GoodRx, a provider of medical and healthcare services.

Some retirees are even worse affected. Here is an excerpt from an email from “RAB” who feared she and her husband could lose their home because they were in arrears with their taxes. One reason for this: Your medical bills are skyrocketing:

“In January 2020, our medication went from $ 400 for a three month supply to $ 2,000 for a three month supply. Medicines that can only be filled monthly rose from $ 100 to $ 400. We have left out some drugs and reduced others. ”

“RAB” didn’t say what drugs they were taking, but there is no question that price increases like this can be ruinous. There are numerous programs that can help.

Let’s start with Medicare itself.

The gigantic government program has a special section called “6 ways to get help with prescription costs. “

The fifth point might be particularly helpful: Medicare and Social Security have a program called Extra Help – a way for people with limited incomes and resources to get help with prescription costs. If you qualify for additional assistance, you cannot pay more than “$ 3.70 for each generic covered” and “$ 9.20 for each branded drug covered”.

I mentioned GoodRx earlier. On your website, you can enter a drug name and your potential savings will be displayed. I tried atorvastatin, a generic version of Lipitor, the anti-cholesterol drug. The result that came up: “The lowest GoodRx price for the most popular version of atorvastatin is around $ 6.00, 91% off the average retail price of $ 74.78.”

Another suggestion is to try NeedyMeds.org on his website or by calling 1-800-503-6897. NeedyMeds is a 501 (c) (3) national not-for-profit organization that “connects people with programs that help them pay for their medicines and other health care bills”. You need a discount card – it’s free – and you can get it here:

The card “can help you save up to 80% on the price of your prescription drugs”. And look at this page – which offers a generic $ 4 discount program. Scroll to the bottom of this page and you will find a list of dozens of drugs. Hopefully one you need is listed. Since it is a non-profit organization, I checked the legitimacy. Charity Navigator, a website that rates charities, and received a passing grade: 85 out of 100.

State aid

Some states – unfortunately less than half – have State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs) that help low-income seniors and adults with disabilities pay for their prescription drugs. The National Council on Aging says SPAP coverage varies by state, “but the program generally offers“ comprehensive ”Medicare Part D coverage, which means they pay costs that Medicare Part D doesn’t cover.

Unfortunately, two of the three largest states – California and retired Florida – do not have such a program. For the full list, Visit this medicare.gov page to learn more.

Help from drug manufacturers

I hate to throw you another acronym, but there are PAPs, short for Patient Assistance Programs, offered by some drug companies to help seniors, low-income people, and people with disabilities get paid for medicines. The National Council on Aging has one more database that you can visit.

Some people who write to me say that sometimes they have to decide whether to take their medication or whether to eat right. It is obviously unacceptable that citizens in one of the richest countries in the world should have to make such decisions. I hope the above resources can help you save a little, or even better, a lot.

Please write to me – at [email protected] – and let me know how much you’ve saved.

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