A state activist group has weighed in on the Medicare debate and the cost of drugs for seniors. Iowa Citizen Action Network co-executive director Betty Ahrens calls the republican prescription drug benefit crafted in Washington a “bait-and-switch” offer.Ahrens says it’s a handout of taxpayer money to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that does little or nothing to help seniors and patients on disability. Far from reforming Medicare, the group charges that it handicaps the national program that’s supposed to serve as a healthcare safety net for the low-income elderly. The law specifically prohibits the Medicare program for negotiating with drug makers for lower prices on prescriptions the way the Veterans Administration negotiates a 40-to-60-percent discount on drugs. Ahrens says there’s no reason to get rid of the system being used. Ahrens says Medicare “does a great job” spending 98-cents of every healthcare dollar on delivering healthcare, compared with 88-cents on the dollar at best from private insurance companies, with overhead sometimes as high as 30-percent. Ahrens says the drug benefit before Congress would cover only 22-percent of prescription drug costs for the next decade, leaving seniors and the disabled to pay the other 78-percent and doing nothing to rein in drug prices. The group’s calling on Iowa’s five congressman to oppose the bill, which passed the House once by a one-vote margin, and would like the state’s U.S. senators to stop it in the Senate.
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