Gray Panthers of San Francisco
March, 2006 Newsletter

To the Editor:


Medicare Part D Is Killing Us


As our country plunges us ito endless war (see “Special report: America’s Long War, The Guardian 2-15-06), soldiers are not the only ones in harm’s way. While billions are spent on the war in Iraq, the Medicare Modernization Act was forced down our throats by arm-twisting, threats and crooked deals in Congress. The result is a cut to benefits for many low income families and the disabled. All of this was made very real to my family and me as my son, who has chronic kidney disease, tried to leap the hurdles presented to him under Medicare Drug Part D through his HMO.

He became alarmed when a coordinator from his Medicare HMO called, tearfully informing him that his insurance would only cover six of his thirteen medications. First they disapproved two of his four high blood pressure medications. To compensate his doctor had to double up on the amount of medication, which caused his blood pressure to become unstable until they got the dosage right. MediCal funding is no longer available to him to cover Semsipar, a drug that controls the amount of calcium in his system at the cost of $1,800 a month. The co-pay under his insurance plan is 50%, an amount neither he nor anyone in our family can afford. Presently he is getting samples from his dialysis center and a sympathetic pharmacist. His doctor says that if he is not able to get a stable supply source his only alternative is to have surgery to remove his parathyroid to stop production of calcium. Because he cannot excrete calcium due to his illness, it becomes life threatening if he does not take Semsipar.

However this scenario plays out, he and his wife are now forced to find cheaper housing in order to pay for the other drugs. For those with fragile lives, these cuts are truly life threatening. The SF Gray Panthers are right on the mark demanding the Medicare Drug Benefit be scrapped and replaced by universal, single payer health care with low-cost drugs.

Yours in Struggle, a Member

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