Seniors Struggle with Health Care
Bloomberg Business News has reported that “Older Americans are sacrificing basic necessities to afford costly health services, according to a (Gallup) survey that shows how many elderly people cut personal expenses to take care of medical needs.
“Out-of-pocket health costs for elders in the US rose 41% from 2009 to 2019…”, and “About 9% of Americans 65 and older spent less on food, 6% cut spending on utilities and 19% trimmed clothing expenditures to help cover health costs…”
Unfortunately, that information is not news to many TSCL supporters who have contacted us and let us know of their desperate situations.
As we also know, many seniors have avoided getting medical treatment for health issues they have and many don’t pick up the prescription medicines they are supposed to take, both because of the cost.
In addition, according to that same survey, nearly half of Americans ages 50 through 64 who aren’t eligible for Medicare also share the same concerns as those who are on Medicare.
That is why TSCL has launched a nation-wide petition effort and has been lobbying Congress for months to provide a $1,400 emergency stimulus check in order to help seniors survive during this unprecedented time of inflation.
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Seniors Also Struggle with Dental Care
What we commonly think of as “health care” is not the only Issue Seniors grapple with. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older Americans with the poorest oral health tend to be those who are economically disadvantaged, lack insurance, and are members of racial and ethnic minorities. Being disabled, homebound, or institutionalized (e.g., seniors who live in nursing homes) also increases the risk of poor oral health. Adults 50 years and older who smoke are also less likely to get dental care than people who do not smoke. Many older Americans do not have dental insurance because they lost their benefits upon retirement and the federal Medicare program does not cover routine dental care.
Oral health problems in older adults include the following:
- Untreated tooth decay. Nearly all adults (96%) aged 65 years or older have had a cavity; 1 in 5 have untreated tooth decay.
- Gum disease. A high percentage of older adults have gum disease. About 2 in 3 (68%) adults aged 65 years or older have gum disease.
- Tooth loss. Nearly 1 in 5 of adults aged 65 or older have lost all their teeth. Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults aged 75 and older (26%) compared with adults aged 65-74 (13%). Having missing teeth or wearing dentures can affect nutrition, because people without teeth or with dentures often prefer soft, easily chewed foods instead of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Oral cancer. Cancers of the mouth (oral and pharyngeal cancers) are primarily diagnosed in older adults; median age at diagnosis is 62 years.
- Chronic disease. People with chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be more likely to develop gum (periodontal) disease, but they are less likely to get dental care than adults without these chronic conditions. Also, most older Americans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs; many of these medications can cause dry mouth. Reduced saliva flow increases the risk of cavities.
That’s why Kaiser Health News and National Public Radio have teamed up and begun a yearlong investigative project that explores “the scale, impact, and causes of the health care debt crisis in the United States.”
About 4 in 10 adults report having medical or dental debt, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll has found, a share that roughly translates into an estimated 100 million adults. Many expect repaying the debt to take years, and about 1 in 5 say they do not expect to ever pay it all off.
The problem drives millions of Americans from their homes or into bankruptcy, but the consequences are not just financial. About 1 in 7 people with health care debt say they have been denied access to a hospital, doctor, or other provider because of unpaid bills. The toll of medical debt tends to fall most severely on the poor, the sick, and people of color, the investigation reveals.
Besides cutting spending on food and other essentials, millions are being driven from their homes or into bankruptcy. And medical debt is piling additional hardships on people with cancer and other chronic illnesses.
In addition, much of the medical debt is hidden as monthly installments paid via credit card, loans from family, and payment plans arranged directly with hospital and doctor’s offices.
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Government Agency to Investigate Cause of Higher Drug Costs
Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, are companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, large employers, and other payers. By negotiating with drug manufacturers and pharmacies to control drug spending, PBMs have a significant behind-the-scenes impact in determining total drug costs for insurers, shaping patients’ access to medications, and determining how much pharmacies are paid.
PBMs have faced growing scrutiny about their role in rising prescription drug costs and spending. In fact, there is a major war going on in Washington between PMBs and the big pharmacy manufacturers about whose fault higher drug prices are.
High drug rebates that PBMs require from drug makers may violate federal competition laws if they stifle patient access, according to a policy statement adopted unanimously by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week.
The FTC voted to issue a document outlining how it will use existing competition and consumer protection laws to examine rebates and fees paid by drug manufacturers to PBMs. The FTC said it plans to look at whether these payments limit patient access to insulin and other drug products.
The commissioners framed the policy statement as just one component of their broader examination into whether practices by entities involved in the US pharmaceutical distribution chain are resulting in higher drug costs for Americans, especially those with diabetes and other conditions in need of easy access to continuous, long-term treatment.
TSCL is pleased there will be another investigation about why drug prices are so high and we continue to push Congress to pass legislation this year that would result in lower drug prices. In addition, we note that this new investigation by the FTC could result in measures that might lower drug prices by using existing laws, even if Congress can’t manage to pass needed legislation this year.
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As we continue dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic, TSCL remains constant in our fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We’ve had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.
For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org or follow TSCL Facebook or on Twitter.