WASHINGTON, DC, Sep 23 — The inflationary spike has certainly increased the cost of living– but it has literally raised the price of staying alive. Recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation [KFF] found that “about half of U.S. adults say they have difficulty affording health care costs. About four in ten U.S. adults say they have delayed or gone without medical care in the last year due to cost, with dental services being the most common type of care adults report putting off due to cost.”
The survey showed that seniors are particularly hard hit. KFF reported that “substantial shares of adults 65 or older report difficulty paying for various aspects of health care, especially services not generally covered by Medicare, such as hearing services, dental and prescription drug costs.”
We are not talking about the price of gasoline nor are we reporting on the negative impact of higher food prices. That’s bad enough but here we’re literally talking about the cost of keeping your heart ticking.
It’s been a little more than a year and half since President Biden triggered a previously unimagined increase in the rate of inflation. President Trump handed the nation a pretty affordable 1.4% rate of inflation by the end of his tenure; in the 20 months since Biden took the helm it has soared as high as 9.1% and continues to hover at high rates. Congress did pass an Inflation Reduction Act [IRA] but it’s not likely to reduce inflation, say a group of economists and data scientists at University of Pennsylvania. Some experts say the IRA might even fuel inflation, kicking it up a point, or two or three in the coming months.
The West Health group of medical research organizations and Gallup conducted a poll not long ago and reported that 38% of more than 3,000 respondents are focusing their attention on reducing medical health care costs. They said they were doing so by “delaying or skipping medical care or medications.” But it is not just marginal, lower income Americans that are feeling the pain of the Biden inflation cycle. According to the report the 38% means 98 million adults — including those earning less than $48,000 a year — are having to figure out how to afford health care. But they are not alone, 19% of higher income households — those earning at least $180,000 or more — said they have pared back spending to pay for health care, as well.
As usual, seniors are among the majority of those who are concerned about the impact inflation is having on health care. A report by eHealth Insurance found that 95% of Medicare beneficiaries say they are worried about the impact of inflation on health care costs and 45% say their personal health care costs have already increased as a result of inflation. “About half (49%) of Medicare beneficiaries say an increase of 10% or less in their Medicare premiums would make their coverage unaffordable; a similar figure (52%) say an increase of 10% or less would make their prescription drug costs unaffordable.”
Seniors are anxious to know how and when the Biden administration is preparing for pricing negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. The administration says the Inflation Reduction Act will give Medicare an ability to “negotiate” drug pricing. But says a report at the website The Conversation, “The act gives Medicare the ability to negotiate with drug makers for 10 drugs starting in 2026 and 20 by 2029.” The headline for the report tells it all, “Why letting Medicare negotiate drug prices won’t be the game-changer for health care Democrats hope it will be.”
In its August 6th letter to the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, AMAC strongly opposed the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act,” which President Biden eventually signed. In part of its opposition, AMAC raised its strong concerns “…about the Medicare prescription drug price “negotiations” contained in this legislation, because the provision allows the government to set prices while calling it a ‘negotiation’ this will harm future drug development and increase the cost of prescription drugs for millions of Americans on private insurance. Stifling innovation for prescription drugs will deprive seniors of ground-breaking new therapies for decades to come.”
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