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The Price ISN'T Right

Updated: May 9, 2023

If you talk to someone over the age of sixty-five about their daily life, chances are that they will mention how difficult it is for them to afford their medications. That's because 19% of people over the age of fifty have reported struggling to pay for their medication costs. For a generation of people who rely on Social Security income and didn't know what tanning oil would do to them, this is certainly a predicament. What's more is that most of their medicines need to be taken daily and are necessary to prevent a fatal event, such as death, or a trip to the hospital, at the very least. Social Security income usually barely enough to get by on, and with high prescription costs, can leave some seniors with the choice of paying their utilities or getting their prescriptions filled.


During a time after the wars, where culture seemed to be booming, new trends and ways of life were emerging. Unbeknownst to these eager participants in these ways, many of them would pay dearly for these choices. Over-consumption of sugar leads to diabetes type 2, tanning oil leads to skin cancer, cigarettes lead to cardiac issues, respiratory issues, and alcohol, cigarettes (while pregnant) and Mercurochrome could cause birth defects in developing fetuses. Even those who avoided all these snares often develop a health issue in their elder years, simply due to the body deteriorating and losing it's youthful function. Needless to say, most of these people worked hard and were able to receive Social Security income as well as Medicare benefits. Despite these forms of retirement assistance, oftentimes the debts still cannot be paid.


For one patient who receives only Social Security income, and has Medicare parts A, B C, & D, the cost of their diabetes medicine, Ozempic, is still sky-high. Not covered by their insurance, the senior is informed of the full cost of the drug: $892.06 for a single 1.5 mL pen injection. Without insulin, a person with diabetes could end up in the hospital with serious complications. Flabbergasted, they are forced to search for other ways to cover the cost of their medication. Fortunately, there are some ways: manufacturer discounts clubs such as GoodRx, Canadian Pharmacies and the right Medicare plan, but oftentimes, the patient is still left with expenses rarely less than $80 for a medication of that cost bracket.


This leaves people wondering why the costs of medications that are so vital to one's health are so expensive, but the answer may be ironic, and within the question itself. A medication that is so vital is often difficult, time-consuming and costly to develop, so the pharmaceutical companies state, but is it possible that the reason could be that they know we will have to pay for it no matter what? Market-gouging is, in fact, the most agreed-upon answer as to why life-saving drugs are so expensive. In other words, when a drug company is the only company producing that drug, they are able to set prices at they desire, since there is no competition.


Some of the proposed methods of combating this issue are increased insurance coverage and policy changes that target these price-gouging tactics. Having insurance, such as Part D Medicare, helps seniors have access to their medications at a lower price, and many private insurance companies are protected from paying the exorbitant prices. Additionally, some lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are attempting to introduce legislation that would limit the price of prescription drugs, and insulin in particular. As of now, bills to cap the costs of insulin and other care to persons with diabetes have been passed in twenty-three states, but this only scratches the surface of the issues with all medication costs. Seniors will still have difficulties paying for many other necessary medications, besides insulin.


Fortunately, many seniors have found relief and fewer trips to the pharmacy with healthy lifestyle changes. Some senior insurance programs come with a SilverSneakers membership, which allows them access to a participating gym or fitness center at no additional cost to them. This will help them to curb the effects of certain diseases like diabetes, manage and improve their weight, cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as cardiac and respiratory function, which all come with a variety of benefits. Seniors are also getting more access to nutritional knowledge through their insurance plans, and a general abundance of new knowledge becoming available about the subject. Eating better quality foods and foods that have been shown to help improve certain conditions can also reduce the amount of medications a senior might need to take. Learning how to listen to one's body, manage levels such as blood sugar, sodium and water can also steer seniors away from the pharmacy and toward a healthier state.


Ultimately, the best outcome for the situation may be to have legislation imposed on the pharmaceutical companies regarding their exorbitant prices on life-saving drugs. It's easily unethical for such a practice to persist. The drugs will cost many times more than what it costs to produce them, leaving seniors helpless to afford what they need. They can do what they can to protect themselves and fight against their conditions, but the problem ultimately lies with the highly immoral practice known as price-gouging.

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