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Drug Prices Climbing, But Help is Available

Prescription drug prices have increased six times faster than inflation. (Alcibiades/Wikimedia Commons)
Prescription drug prices have increased six times faster than inflation. (Alcibiades/Wikimedia Commons)
March 25, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Prescription costs are going up fast, but help is available for low-income seniors.

A recent AARP study found the retail price of prescription drugs has risen six times faster than inflation over the past ten years.

Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director of AARP Pennsylvania, said that leaves many seniors in the state with some tough choices to make.

"We're hearing on a daily basis that due to this increase in cost, they have to decide between filling their prescriptions or buying food, and even sometimes, paying this month's rent or mortgage," he said.

Two state programs, known as PACE and PACENET, are available to help older Pennsylvanians who are not on Medicaid and meet certain income requirements.

According to Johnston-Walsh, the PACE program limits the cost of generic drugs to $6 for a 30-day supply, and $9 for brand-name medications. And the costs under PACENET are only a few dollars more.

"Pennsylvania's PACE and PACENET programs are national models that currently help more than 300,000 residents save money on the critical medications that they need," he said.

However, Johnston-Walsh pointed out that as many as 100,000 additional seniors statewide are eligible for these programs but have not enrolled.

Individuals can even enroll while receiving benefits from another insurer – an employer, a retirement plan, the Veterans Administration or a Medicare Advantage plan. Johnston-Walsh added it can help people save while enrolled in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, too.

He explained it this way: "They're able to wrap around and get the assistance and some additional dollars, so that the individual doesn't have to pay that out-of-pocket cost to go through the 'donut hole' before they reach the other side."

AARP is urging seniors who think they may be eligible to call 1-800-225-7223 for more information.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA