A Kansas congressman expressed alarm about the inability of some Kansas to pay for prescription drugs necessary for survival.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., received a convincing dose of evidence Wednesday that Lawrence residents are being driven to despair by prescription medical bills that consume big chunks of their income.
Some folks with expensive pharmaceutical regimens and without adequate resources make desperate choices that exacerbate health woes.
Will it be medicine or food?
"You'd like to believe it's something that doesn't happen," Moore said. "The government can and should do something about it."
He visited 50 elderly people gathered at Babcock Place for a forum sponsored by Kaw Valley Chapter of the Older Women's League.
Linda Breithaupt, 51, and Alice Fowler, 64, offered the congressman living proof that the cost of prescription drugs would be a constant concern the rest of their lives.
Both Lawrence women have undergone kidney transplants and take a series of medicines to keep their bodies from rejecting the organs.
For now, Breithaupt's insurance through Lawrence Memorial Hospital covers her medication expenses. Fowler is a former Lawrence fire department secretary who requires about $1,000 a month of drugs -- equivalent to two-thirds her income. Her Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage expires this month when she turns 65. A temporary Medicare supplement for transplant patients will run out in September.
Fowler's search for a long-term solution has proven to be an exercise in frustration. She's been misdirected to a series of health agencies and provided a bundle of incorrect information about options.
"For those who are faint of heart, you just throw up your hands. It does beat you down. I just don't want to be defeated."
On Friday, Fowler learned that a program through the hospital where she received the transplant might be able to offset a portion of her pharmaceutical expenses.
Moore generally endorsed a bill introduced in the U.S. House that would eliminate the 36-month cap on Medicare coverage on immunosuppressive drugs specifically for transplant patients.
"It would provide medication she needs to stay alive," Moore said.
A promising bill being drafted on Capitol Hill would add a permanent, broad prescription benefit to the Medicare program. It would be an expensive approach certain to meet opposition from lawmakers loath to expand entitlements, he said.
"I'm not going to lie to you. There's no Santa Claus," Moore said. "There's a limited amount of resources. It's going to be very, very expensive."
Moore said health-care reform ideas undergo rigorous cost-benefit analysis and, as a result, often fail to develop into law when politicians learn the projected budget.
It was a point that raised the eyebrows of Hilda Enoch of Lawrence.
"To say this country cannot afford health care for people who have given all their years ... to say it's a cost-benefit -- that just stinks. Don't be meek."
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