Sunday, September 28, 2008

Economics and the Elderly

(Note: This is my eighth post under the auspices of the nurse blogger scholarship which I recently received from Value Care, Value Nurses.)

So, as the bad news splashes across the headlines and the denizens of Wall Street throw up their hands to ward off the falling sky (that they themselves created), the elderly here in the United States are facing some tough economic times of their own as we turn the corner to 2009.

Reports now tell us that premiums for drug coverage under Medicare Part D will rise an average of 31% in the coming year. For some seniors, most of whom are on fixed incomes, a monthly increase of $50 to $100 could spell economic disaster, especially when one considers the simultaneous (and often astronomical) rise in the cost of food, gas, general healthcare costs, home heating, and other necessities.

As I recently reported in an article on Nurse Linkup, Bloomberg, The Associated Press, medical websites, and other independent news outlets are all reporting the inevitability of these increases, the writing already being on the proverbial wall.

To add insult to injury, changing Medicare rules may make some seniors' lives a living hell as they attempt to navigate the shifting sands of Medicare Part D.

And just as the economic climate intensifies with bad news and dire forecasts, American seniors also face the daunting task of negotiating the spending caps created under the Medicare Part D regulations. These rules limit annual reimbursements for medications to $2,510. When this magic number is reached, Medicare recipients must then be on their own purchasing medications until they have spent a total of $5,726, whereby Medicare will begin paying for medications once again. Confused? You should be. If some fortunate seniors are able to purchase expensive "gap coverage" for this period of time, they may break even or come out slightly ahead. For those unable (or too confused or intimidated) to do so, their economic peril may await.

So, what does this say about our country? Who are we? What are we doing to our seniors and disabled citizens? When pharmaceutical lobbyists have more influence than seniors (and their advocates) in the writing of the Medicare Part D regulations, we all know who loses.

Senior citizens are vulnerable members of our society, many of whom have worked all their lives, diligently paid their taxes, and now must struggle to make ends meet in the Autumn and Winter of their lives. Sure, the global economic crisis has indeed cast its pall on almost everyone, but even as the U.S. Congress holds midnight meetings to rescue Wall Street from its excesses and errant ways, no one is talking about how to rescue vulnerable and sick seniors as they fall down their own financial rabbit hole.

No doubt, even as the "rescue" ensues, some CEOs and others in power will somehow come out ahead, making off with money that is not rightfully theirs at a time when that money should be trickling down rather than up.

When I think of the cold months of winter ahead, I think of middle class and working class senior citizens who honestly don't know how they'll make ends meet. Meanwhile, in the halls of Power, there's money to be traded----and made.


Anonymous said...

Painfully true...

I know in studying the Medicare part D rules, I had to read it three or four times before I got the whole "donought" concept (no pun intended)...

How do we expect seniors to understand and use a prescription plan that lawyers have too decipher?

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Exactly, John. Medicare Part D was not created with seniors in mind, and it was never meant to be user-friendly. Now that's a sorry excuse for a "benefit" in my book.