You need to keep a roof over your head, refrigerate food and continue taking medication. But what if you can’t afford all three? What are you doing? The choices are tough – and potentially dangerous.
This is what many Americans experience, says a study by GoodRx, a Santa Monica. California-based health care company that tracks prescription drug prices across the country.
In 2020, note Amanda Nguyen, Ph.D., a GoodRx health economist, nearly 40% of those surveyed said paying for a prescription was financially difficult. Writing on the company blog, he adds that “over 20% said they struggled to pay for basic necessities such as food and shelter as a result.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has cost millions of Americans their jobs, is clearly making things worse. Job loss usually means loss of health insurance, forcing people to spend savings, take on debt “and (make) potentially dangerous changes to prescribed treatment regimens,” wrote Nguyen.
In January, a separate GoodRx survey reported that the price of 832 drugs increased by an average of 4.6%. Of these, says the company Tori Marsh MPH, 822 are brand-name drugs, 175 are specialty drugs (meaning they may be expensive at first), and the remainder are drugs administered by health care practitioners (available only under the supervision of a healthcare provider). The overall increase appears to be the biggest in years, he said.
Prices of some drugs are rising faster. The world’s best-selling drug, Humira – an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease – was up 7.4% in January, and up 21% over the past three years, Marsh said. Humira is the ATM machine for its manufacturer, AbbVie Inc., which says that was responsible for a net income of $ 5.152 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020 only. The Food and Drug Administration has coincidentally approved five generic versions of Humira, but so far these “biosimilars” (as the industry calls generics) have not stopped AbbVie’s sauce train.
The GoodRx study covers all age groups, but there is no doubt that such price increases can be overwhelming for seniors, who tend to leave the workforce and rely too much on Social Security. As I mentioned earlier, files the average Social Security recipient earned $ 1,543 a month this year– An increase of only 1.3% from last year – and for millions of Americans, that’s the only source of income they have.
So, when the cost of required medical treatment is rising faster than that, tough choices will have to be made.
Marsh says this is what a lot of people do.
“In 2020, 20.7% of people reported taking on debt or declared bankruptcy because of the cost of their prescription medication. Borrowing from friends or family was the most common financial act (16.8%), followed by getting a loan (5.0%), taking out another mortgage (1.2%), and filing for bankruptcy (1.0%). “
Imagine: Having to mortgage your home or declare bankruptcy because the combined costs of maintaining the roof, food in the fridge, and medicine in the bathroom cupboards are too much. I feel that this is not what the term “golden years” mean.
What can be done about all of this? The US health care system is a big mess. We spend more on health care – twice as much as the developed world average – but have worse outcomes, said this sad report from the Commonwealth Fund. Trust me: It’s a downer.
Some proposals, however, center on the idea of spending more money. As a candidate, Joe Biden suggests lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare by five years to 60.But most Americans – 85% Democrats and 69% Republicans – want to drop it even more, to be as young as 50, according to a 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
Where did the money come from? Medicare’s finances have faltered. Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, for example, will not have enough money to cover all support costs starting in 2024 – very close. What happens if millions of new beneficiaries are added to the system? A much higher tax seems to be a painful answer. Good luck getting a big tax hike through Congress.
And even if the Medicare eligibility age remains at 65, thousands of Americans qualify for it every day. Hard choices for millions – food, rent, medicine, and more – await. Tell your story. Do you have to make a choice like this? Between food / rent – and your medicine? I won’t identify you if you will. My email: [email protected].