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AARP Wants to Stop the Greed

By Susan Hutchinson

AARP came to Myrtle Beach on July 17 to organize their volunteers to assist with this year’s campaign against the high cost of prescription drugs. The campaign Stop The Greed was presented at the meeting by AARP South Carolina Communications Director Patrick Cobb and Outreach Specialist Liz Norris at the Hampton Inn at Broadway at the Beach.

Volunteers were asked to participate at regional campaign events by both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. AARP members will wear red Stop the Greed t-shirts to the event with a spokesperson assigned to ask 4 key questions of the candidates. The questions relate to issues that affect everyone, not just older Americans. Presidential candidates need to be clear on what their policies will be regarding keeping Social Security and Medicare intact and viable for the future, how they are going to lower drug prices as well as holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for increasing drug prices year on year and to define how they can help Americans remain independent in their communities as they age.

Literature handed out at the event included key statistics that all South Carolina voters should be familiar with before going to the polls.

–  Average annual cost of one brand name drug for chronic disease was $6800 in 2017 while the average annual cost of drugs increased 57.8% between 2012 and 2017 and annual income only increased 9.5%

–  Pharmaceutical companies who have the most cost increases and the most expensive drugs spend close to $169 million lobbying Congress and spent over $6 billion on advertising in 2018

–  Only 20% of the cost of drugs is applied to research and development

The number of beneficiaries for Social Security and Medicare will continue to rise every year. Currently, in South Carolina, the number of Social Security recipients totals over 1.1 million and is expected to increase yearly as more retirees move to this area. These beneficiaries can be categorized based on the amount of Social Security used as their main source of income.

  • 47% use at least 50% of their monthly distribution
  • 24% use at least 90% of their monthly distribution

Older Americans take an average of 4.5 prescription drugs for chronic illness. The current Medicare Drug Plan dictates that the higher the drug is on their tier, the higher the co-pay amount. The higher tier levels are the most expensive drugs. Not everyone can afford supplemental health insurance or a Medicare Advantage plan to help alleviate co-pay costs. These people must use whatever income they have to pay for their needed medication or apply for Medicaid assistance.

If pharmaceutical companies are allowed to continue their current practices of attempting to block the availability of generic equivalents and to increase the price on drugs that are already out of reach for the average retiree, those who rely on Social Security for at least 50% of their income will be using a lot more of that distribution just to cover the cost of their medications.

AARP is advocating for common sense solutions to the ever-rising cost of prescription drugs. This includes removing the federal mandate that does not allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies, putting a cap on out of pocket costs and getting more access to generic drugs. To help accomplish this they are urging everyone to contact their Senators to support S.340 – CREATES Act of 2019 and their Congressional Representatives to support H.R.1499 – Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 and H.R.1564 – Outpatient Mental Health Modernization Act of 2019.

As Americans age, they will continue to lose their choices in how to manage their healthcare and the associated costs. AARP wants to make sure everyone knows where the 2020 Presidential candidates stand on this important issue of rising drug costs and its consequences to those on a fixed income.

For more information on AARP in South Carolina or to volunteer, call the AARP office at 803-765-7371.

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