Rising Drug Costs Force MN Seniors to Make Tough Choices

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A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation says most older adults find prescription drug costs unreasonable. (Ladyheart/Morguefile)

By: Mike Moen (Minnesota News Connection)

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The rising cost of prescription drugs continues to grab the attention of lawmakers and advocacy groups.

AARP Minnesota says some of its members are being forced to choose between buying life-saving drugs or buying food, and they hope an upcoming forum will produce solutions on bringing drug costs down. Erin Parrish, associate state director of advocacy with AARP Minnesota, said the situation has reached a breaking point.

“We know that older adults are making some really tough choices,” Parrish said. “When you’re on a fixed income, there’s not much room to come up with the money when all of a sudden your drug increases.”

Parrish gave a recent example of a member who was taking rheumatoid arthritis medication. When the cost doubled, she tried an alternative treatment, which ultimately resulted in irreparable damage. She said they anticipate hearing more stories like that during a forum on December 5 in St. Paul.

AARP will host state lawmakers, along with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and a representative from the medical field. The event is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to noon, and the discussion will air at several locations throughout the state. Those locations can be found on AARP Minnesota’s website.

In Minnesota, Parrish said, they’re pushing for a legislative plan that would establish an independent body to evaluate drug prices and set rates or payment limits.

“Maryland recently passed a similar bill, and these affordability boards are based on the precedent of health-care rate setting and state regulation of public utilities,” she said.

Minnesota lawmakers have struggled to reach a compromise in the recent debate over insulin costs, but Parrish said at both the state and federal level, representatives from both parties now appear willing to address the issue of drug costs and have more discussions about solutions.

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