Grandpa’s Little Helpers

What a drag it is getting old–especially when your government cares more about the profits of the drug and insurance industries than it does about your health and well being.

My article “Medicare’s Poison Pill,” which chronicles my own experiences with the expensive scam known as Medicare Part D, was published in the September/October issue of Mother Jones. It starts off by telling how and why I started taking each one of my half-dozen daily prescription drugs, and what the experience taught me:

This was when I learned what it means to get old. You’re no longer like the average young person, who needs a course of antibiotics to cure a sinus infection, or painkillers for a sprained ankle. You have more in common with people who have life-threatening diseases like aids or cancer: Your access to the drugs you need may determine whether you will live another day, or another 10 years. Or it may determine whether you can see, or whether you can walk across a room. You will take pills until you die.

With that in mind, the question of what the government does to ensure America’s elders get their drugs takes on a significance of Darwinian proportions.

A lot of people have commented on the article at in the last few months–some expressing sympathy or sharing their own Part D horror stories, while others kindly suggested that maybe I should have made a “few lifestyle changes” before becoming “addicted” to the drugs that keep me from having a stroke or going blind.

Among other things, the article questions the financial benefits of signing up for Medicare Part D at all, since the premiums, co-pays, and “donut hole” costs are so high. Last week, the National Senior Citizen Law Center documented the further cost increases that are on the way for 2009, which will especially affect low-income elderly people who are eligible for drug plan subsidies.

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