Medicare Drug Cards A Raw Deal For Seniors

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Editor:

What do you think about the new Medicare Drug Card program now available? You've probably heard a lot said about it lately.

What hasn't been said is that this program was designed based on the specific recommendations of the pharmaceutical companies.

Mark McClellan, Bush's top Medicare official, claims that the new prescription drug cards being offered by the government will provide "significant price reductions off typical retail prices" for seniors.

But a new study by the House Government Reform Committee reveals that McClellan's claim is not true -- in fact, many seniors would pay more for drugs using the "discount" cards (which cost up to $30 a year) than they would paying retail.

The study found that a one month supply of the 10 best selling name brand drugs cost more using Medicare drug cards offered by Pharmacy Care Alliance ($1,061), RxSavings ($1,046) or Walgreens ($990) than paying retail at drugstore.com ($959).

In Canada the same drugs cost just $596 -- 40 percent less than the lowest priced drug card -- but the Bush administration continues to fight the efforts of seniors to obtain affordable prescription drugs there.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said that the competition among providers will cause "prices to continue to fall". But the restrictions placed on which cards seniors can use, makes that unlikely. If you're a senior, once you select a card you're locked in until the end of 2004 and can change only once -- in the fall, when enrollment for next year's program begins.

Meanwhile, corporations offering drug cards can change their prices once a week. Even if the prices for prescription drugs rise dramatically with the card you select, you can't switch cards before 2005.

Does this sound like a fair deal to you?

It's actually about ROI (return on investment). The pharmaceutical industry has invested over $4 million in the Bush 2004 re-election campaign. That's peanuts compared to what they'll earn under this drug card program.

If you feel your interests are playing second fiddle to those of the big corporations and this kind of payback is unfair -- "Remember in November".

Larry Brophy, Payson

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