2004-09-30 / Seniors

Crowley Says Drug Discount Cards Don’t Deliver Savings, As Promised

Unveiling a report which found that Medicare drug discount cards are not providing the discount promised to his constituents, Congressmember Joseph Crowley charged that President George W. Bush’s healthcare reform bill “has done zero to lower the cost of prescription drugs for American seniors.”

Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) noted that beside the president’s failure to deliver on the drug discount promise, he has added to seniors’ woes by increasing the Medicare premium they pay by 17 percent next year.

Crowley commissioned the report, entitled “Medicare Prescription Drug Cards: Few Discounts in New York’s 7th District.” He said it shows that Medicare drug discount cards fail to provide significant discounts for seniors in his district, which includes Jackson Heights and Elmhurst in Queens.

Crowley explained that the report analyzed the 33 discount drug cards available in the district, detailing the prices each card charges for the 10 brand name drugs most used by seniors.

The only seniors who do not suffer from the poor performance of the drug discount cards Crowley said, are those with low incomes, who have received a $600 subsidy to help cover their drug costs.

Otherwise, Crowley said, the report showed that prices available under the discounts are 62 percent higher than Canadian prices, 64 percent higher than what the federal government pays for bulk purchases from pharmaceutical companies for the VA and other federal agencies, and generally equal to what seniors would pay if buying their medications through a web program such as wwwdrugstore.com.

Citing specific examples, Crowley said a 30-day supply of Celebrex, an arthritis drug, costs $38.69 in Canada compared to $74.14 or more through Medicare drug cards.

Similarly, a 30-day supply of the ulcer medication Protonix costs the federal government $44.31 as a bulk purchase as compared to $68.71 or more with a Medicare card.

When the drug cards were first issued this past April 29, Bush Administration Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson predicted they would bring average savings of 17 to 30 percent. But several studies after the cards were in use showed that savings were much lower than predicted.

Although Crowley’s report found that Canadian drug prices and negotiated drug prices would be much cheaper for seniors, the Medicare drug plan signed by Bush specifically bars government officials from setting up programs with either Canadian or domestic drug companies.

GOTBAUM RELEASES Rx DRUG GUIDE: Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum released a “Senior’s Guide to Prescription Drug Plans in New York City 2004-2005” last Tuesday at the Ravenswood Senior Center Senior Health Fair in Long Island City.

Gotbaum explained that the guide offers concise information designed to help New Yorkers age 65 and older to better understand the various drug plans available to them. “Because many eligibility requirements are determined by gross income, the Public Advocate’s guide includes a comparison chart which allows seniors to view and compare their options,” Gotbaum said.

The guide also contains descriptions of the various plans, along with several application forms for programs such as EPIC or the Medicare drug discount card.

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