East Valley senior citizens attending a town hall meeting Monday on President Bush’s plan to revamp Medicare were enthusiastic about the promise of prescription drug benefits, but some said the proposal was too little, too late.
The meeting at Tempe’s Pyle Adult Recreation Center attracted about 100 people and was facilitated by Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., and Josefina Carbonell, the assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They explained and promoted Bush’s $400 billion, 10-year plan to reform the Medicare health insurance program for seniors.
The plan would provide a prescription drug discount card for all seniors, a $600 annual drug subsidy for low-income seniors and wider choice of more flexible insurance plans.
Currently, 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties have no access to a Medicare HMO.
Attendees broke into applause when Greta Rogers, 73, of Ahwatukee Foothills asked: “I want to know what you are going to do to rein in the prescription drug companies, who are raping the American people from day one until death?"
Rogers pays $178 for three asthma medications, in addition to $89 a month for Medicare and private health insurance. She said she’s disgusted with the high cost of prescription drugs, which are less expensive overseas.
“Many elderly people are living on a very, very restricted income. The question becomes, ‘Do I buy orange juice this week or pills?’ " she said after the meeting. “It’s not a question of whether to buy hooch or pills."
Hayworth said he supports a bill to open the U.S. prescription drug market to foreign competition, but said Bush’s plan would also drive costs down through bulk purchasing.
Paul Hubbell, 69, of Tempe said the discount card, with its promised discounts of 10 percent to 25 percent, is not enough. Hubbell is suspicious of the plan’s hefty price, which he said is bound to decrease benefits.
“The money isn’t there," Hubbell said.