Responding to the demands of the drug monopolies, the Bush Administration killed the demand to give seniors on Medicare an affordable prescription drug benefit. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund and Tufts Unviersity-New England Medical Center found that nearly one-quarter of seniors cannot afford and therefore do not take medical doses prescribed by their physicians. The study also found that one in four seniors spend $100 or more per month on prescription drugs.

These numbers are averages compiled in eight industrial states. In some of these states, one third of all seniors said they were forced to do without or cut back on one or more of their drugs.

These prescription drugs are not cosmetic. They are drugs prescribed by physicians. They are needed to relieve pain, treat illnesses or stop the spread of disease, all of which are the basis of a moral and humanitarian country.

Republican excuses

The Senatorial debate over legislation to provide a prescription drug program to seniors unearthed deeply cynical Republican responses. The Republicans argued in favor of a means test. That is, only those seniors who cannot afford the drug should receive the benefit. The argument is that the benefit is too costly. And this is from an Administration that is spending billions on aggressive preparation for war and anti-democratic activities in our own country!

The Democrats, to their credit, rejected the means test. Everyone knows that to institute a means test based on a person’s income is a road that leads to a two-tier medical system. The disastrous Medicaid system, which separates low-income people from the rest of the population, cannot be repeated in Medicare.

State of Maine

The two senators from the State of Maine showed the dilemma that the Republicans are facing. On the one hand, almost all Republicans are in bed with the drug companies. They are violently opposed to any price controls of prescription drugs.

On the other hand, the Republicans want to retake the Senate. The State of Maine has the most advanced program for prescription drugs for all residents. The founder and leading activist of that movement, Chellie Pingree, is now running for U.S. Senate from the State of Maine. Her opponent is Republican Susan Collins. The other Senator from Maine, also a Republican, is Olympia Snowe.

In the floor discussions and press releases Collins, trying to counter the popularity of Pingree, actively supported the full Medicare bill, without any means test. Snowe, holding to the drug company line, supported that means test.

The real fear of the drug monopolies and their Republican allies is that the Medicare prescription drug benefit will set an example for those working to make prescription drugs available to everyone at greatly reduced prices.

Racism in Elder Care

A recent study from Shaw University and the University of Maryland found significant evidence of racial disparity in regard to African Americans in residential care/assisted living and nursing homes. The study showed that these facilities have considerably lower ratings in regard to cleanliness/maintenance and lighting. In addition, these facilities also admitted seniors who are not equipped for this level of living, i.e., people with severe mental problems, which places all residents into difficult situations.

This study was reported in the recent issue of The American Journal of Public Health, which focuses on “Healthy Aging.” Throughout the articles the Journal’s editors make painfully clear the need for greater attention to geriatric care that goes beyond the equally-important question of upgrading Medicaid and Medicare.

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