I signed up for Medicare last month. In addition to standard Medicare, I added Part D, the prescription drug benefit. My 2013 costs, if they had covered the entire year, would have come to $529 for insurance and $330 for prescription copays.
Today's mail brought the rates for 2014. The insurance premium has increased to $650, or by about 23 percent. Copays have also increased, to $616, or by nearly 87 percent. The total increase — assuming I won't need any additional medications — comes to 47 percent.
I was not happy when President Bush proposed and AARP supported Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit. The idea of insuring seniors' drugs was good. The resulting law, which specifically forbids the federal government from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies, was insane.
“So what brings you in to the clinic tonight?” I ask, beginning a conversation with a middle-aged woman in typical fashion.
“I need some help with my medication,” she tells me, digging into her purse for the packaging from her last filled prescription.
“It’s for high blood pressure, but… I can’t afford it anymore.”
I take a look at her chart.
“Oh!” I say, pleased with my growing ability to recognize medications without aid from a reference text. “I think that’s on the Wal-Mart list. We should be able to give you a prescription for the generic which will be just four dollars per month at Wal-Mart.”
“I know,” she says. “That’s what I was prescribed. I can’t afford it.”
I don’t talk much about the Affordable Care Act in day-to-day conversation, even with the Supreme Court’s decision last week to uphold its constitutionality. In fact, I try to avoid it. It’s just not a conversation I’m poised to treat as small talk, simply because it’s a conversation that goes way deeper than I think most people realize.
Life is hard. It is full of pain, disappointments, and challenges of every kind. When hard times come our way, we often ask, Why me? And the answer comes: Why not you? We sometimes think that God has forsaken us, and sometimes God is silent. It is difficult to remember the Biblical wisdom that explains why believers, children of God, the beloved of God go through difficult times.