Medicare HMO's Deny Drugs to Elderly
They're Only Old People, Why Waste
Money on Them?
January 28, 2002
Medicare HMO's were set up by the
nation's largest health insurers to cater to America's senior
citizens. These HMO's enticed the elderly to join up by touting as one
of the benefits free prescriptions. But now many of these HMO's have
coverage for prescription drugs, or requiring prohibitively high payments
Will this be an anti-HMO rant?
Yes and no.
If the HMO's knew all along that they
would sometime in the near future eliminate the very feature that convinced
the elderly to sign on, then this bait-and-switch tactic is certainly
vile. But there is no evidence (yet) of such a strategy.
And in the HMO's defense, Medicare
officials checked one HMO's increased fees and found that they did not
exceed out-of-pocket costs for the applicable drugs.
Is the true villain here the drug
companies, whose rapidly rising prices are one of the reasons cited by the
HMO's for canceling drug coverage or jacking up fees? Could be.
Drug costs to the insurers have been soaring 20 percent a year.
Perhaps the drug companies are price-gouging.
Congress may be a villain here also,
since in 1997 it imposed a 2-3 percent annual increase limit on Medicare
payments to insurers in many areas of the country. As noted, the drug
costs to the insurers were rising at a 20 percent rate.
Medicare HMO's: The Real Villain
I think the real villain is all of the
above, the system itself. What kind of a society would fail to ensure
that its elderly are well-cared for? It infuriates me when I hear
people defend not providing health care to children. It possibly
enrages me even more when such hard-heartedness is applied to the elderly.
These senior citizens gave us all
life! They're the only reason we're even here now, aren't they?
Mere gratitude should dictate treating them as royalty.
Conservative hogwash about limited
government and our oh-so-heavy tax burden aside, can we truly say we can't
afford to pay for the medications and treatment that elderly sick patients
To all you conservatives who fight
against efforts to adequately fund programs to assist our parents and
grandparents: did you repeatedly skip the Fifth Commandment every time you
read the Bible? To let all you right-wingers in on the secret, it says
Honor your father and your
mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God
gives you. (Revised
Instead of trying to plaster
the Ten Commandments on every classroom wall or behind sitting judges in
court, why not try to follow them instead?
And let's not forget the New
The Medicare HMO cuts
leave the companies
providing insurance to their healthy members, while tens of thousands of
elderly patients with serious diseases like cancer have no affordable
insurance coverage for their basic medical needs.
Does that perhaps bring to
mind two certain related passages in Matthew which are, completely
understandably, rarely invoked by religious conservatives:
Truly, I say to you, as you
did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.
Truly, I say to you, as you
did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.
[Matthew 25:40, 45]
It's hard to imagine someone
more a member of "the least of these" than an elderly, helpless
person with a deadly disease like cancer who needs the help of society in
Plain and simple: are we
going to help our parents and grandparents or not? No excuses,
ideological or otherwise, accepted.