How can someone living on a monthly fixed income of $800 afford a prescription drug costing nearly six times that amount each month? The math mystifies Mary Rose Catlin, 78.
Catlin, a retired phone company employee from Lordstown, uses the drug for her macular degeneration. Down to 10 percent vision in her right eye, she depends on her left eye to see. And the medicine significantly improves the left eye’s vision.
“I have to be able to see,” Catlin said. “I don’t think I can handle going blind.”
This year, AARP Ohio will advocate for Catlin and others facing similar predicaments. The organization will push for state legislative action on prescription drug prices as part of AARP’s national Stop Rx Greed campaign.
In Ohio, the average annual cost of popular brand-name drugs increased nearly 58 percent from 2012 to 2017. Annual income rose only 13 percent.
“The costs are already exorbitant and continue to go higher,” said Latoya Peterson, AARP Ohio advocacy director.
In Catlin’s case, assistance from Medicare and the company that sells her eye drug will now cover the more than $4,000 cost of her monthly injection.
But test strips for her diabetes suddenly jumped from $5 a box per month to nearly $90, while a $30 allergy drug jumped to $400.
“I asked the druggist, ‘How can they do this?’ and he said, ‘Because they can. They’ve got you over a barrel,’” Catlin recalled.
Study, then act
AARP Ohio helped push for the Prescription Drug Transparency and Affordability Advisory Council, created by the legislature. It’s due to make recommendations on drug prices this year.
In Congress, AARP supports several proposals to counter big price hikes: a cap on out-of-pocket expenses; removing barriers to less expensive, generic alternatives; and greater transparency on pricing.
The U.S. House of Representatives in December approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would lower the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare Part D enrollees by requiring the program to negotiate prices and cap out-of-pocket expenses.
Along with drug prices, AARP Ohio has other goals this year:
Savings. A state-facilitated retirement savings program would help thousands of employees without access to a 401(k) or pension at work. Employers would set up an automatic payroll deduction for employee contributions but wouldn’t be required to pay into the plan.
“Folks who will potentially benefit the most are those who work for small businesses,” said Jason Smith, associate advocacy director for AARP Ohio.
The organization supports creation of a task force to study best practices in the 10 states that have approved such programs.
Nurses. AARP Ohio also seeks to remove a state law requiring advanced practice registered nurses—including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse-midwives—to sign an oversight contract with a physician in their field.
Ohioans for Healthcare Access—a nonpartisan coalition that includes AARP, nursing groups and patients—argues that this oversight is unnecessary and hinders access to health care.
In many areas experiencing a shortage of primary care, the coalition argues, a doctor may not want to set up an office, but a nurse practitioner might, especially without the cost and hassle of an oversight agreement.
Interested in becoming an AARP advocacy volunteer? Go to aarp.org/IWant2Volunteer or call 866-740-7719.
Sarah Hollander is a writer living in Cleveland.
More on Drug Prices
This story is provided by AARP Ohio. Visit the AARP Ohio page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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