Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Drug Pricing Will Help Our Senior Citizens

By: Marsha Volkema

Chronic diseases, defined as medical conditions that last longer than a year, and which require continuous medical attention, affect a shocking number of Americans. In the United States, nearly 60 percent of adults have a chronic disease, and older adults are disproportionately affected by these chronic conditions, with 80 percent living with at least one. Tragically, chronic diseases are also the leading cause of death among older adults in this country, and the current steep price of prescription medication only worsens this reality, putting our senior citizens at serious risk. 

Growing old is a natural part of the human experience and something that should be celebrated. However, in order to enjoy the later stages of life, there are often unique health challenges that must be addressed. Unfortunately, our current system often leaves many of our country’s senior citizens by the wayside, especially when it comes to prescription medication. Too many Americans have had the heart-wrenching experience of watching their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents suffer unnecessarily simply because they cannot afford the prescription drugs they need. Our lawmakers need to ensure that our older generations can afford the medication that allows them to continue living healthy lives.

This is especially pertinent here in Arizona, where we are faced with a rapidly expanding senior population. Data from July of last year shows that residents over the age of 65 have been the fastest-growing demographic since 2010, increasing by more than 48 percent. Additionally, in 2018, Arizona ranked 12th in the nation for the percentage of our population over the age of 65, and we were also the 4th fastest aging state. 

With 75 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64, and over 90 percent of Americans over the age 80, using prescription drugs, rising prescription drug prices are hitting Arizona’s seniors extremely hard. In the last year alone, nearly 1.7 million Arizonans could not afford the medicine they were prescribed. As a state and as a country, we cannot continue to allow our friends and family, especially our senior citizens, to go without the prescription medication they need in order to maintain a humane standard of living. 

Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug pricing on behalf of the American people would put an end to predatory price gouging by pharmaceutical companies, and it’s estimated that it could save nearly 100,000 lives annually. This solution is not only practical and effective but also very popular with Arizona residents. Over 4 million Arizonans are in support of allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, and 87 percent of our state’s registered voters are in favor of requiring drug companies to negotiate with Medicare. 

Due to the popularity, practicality, and necessity of this initiative, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug pricing is an obvious choice for our congressional delegation in Washington. But we are counting on leaders like Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has made it clear on multiple occasions that she will fight to expand Arizonans’ access to affordable and quality healthcare, to step up and take action by pushing for legislation that allows for Medicare negotiation to be passed into law this year.

Marsha Volkema is a senior on medicare, former healthcare worker and long-time activist in the west valley.


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