Ohio Seniors Need a Simple, Affordable Medicare Rx Benefit

As the drug and insurance industries rake in tens of billions of dollars in profits, Ohio seniors and people with disabilities are being forced to pay full price for their prescription drugs as they hit gaps in coverage. This Medicare drug plan has provided windfall profits to the drug companies at the expense of Ohio seniors.

While seniors and people with disabilities continue to express frustration with the Part D disaster, Senator Mike DeWine continues to tout his vote in favor of the drug plans. The legislation included a $100 billion subsidy for the pharmaceutical industry, and has allowed the industry to earn tens of billions more off of the backs of the poorest seniors and taxpayers.

After taking $300,000 in campaign contributions from the drug industry over the course of his career, Senator DeWine voted to prohibit Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices. Mike DeWine can try to distort his record, but the truth is that the price of prescription drugs has gone up under Medicare Part D. Part D has provided a boon to the drug and insurance industry but has saddled Ohio seniors with higher costs and gaps in coverage.
The wholesale price of brand name prescription drugs has increased 3.6% since the Part D plans have taken effect. For seniors in the doughnut hole, drug costs have skyrocketed. The average senior will hit the doughnut hole on September 22.

Seniors and people with disabilities are encountering other problems with their new plans. As the market adjusts and insurance companies try to maximize profits, plans are changing which drugs they offer. Yet seniors are locked into their plans for all of 2006 even if the drugs on which they depend are no longer covered. Others who waited past May 15 to settle on the plan of their choice have been blocked out of enrollment and will be forced to pay a late enrollment penalty.
Instead of a drug plan that provides windfall profits for drug companies, we must pass a simple, affordable benefit that promises savings for seniors.

We should require that Medicare negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices, like the VA does. Mike DeWine put the wishes of the drug companies before the needs of Ohio seniors. We must change the leadership in Washington so that we can pass a universal, low-cost drug benefit.