- Universal health care–a right or privilege? (FCN, 10-12-2006)
- The connection between wealth and health (FCN, 06-06-2006)
- Medical group formed to address health disparities (FCN, 04-30-2003)
(FinalCall.com) – Being poor, Black or Latino and in need of prescription drugs can be an unhealthy combination. According to a new national study of adults 18 and older, released in May by the American Association of Retired People (AARP), the high costs of prescription drugs led many Latinos and Blacks to take desperate measures, such as delaying filling a prescription or skipping doses.
The study also found a high level of support in the Latino and Black communities for state legislation to make prescription drugs more affordable.
“High drug prices mean more than stressing a family budget. Too many people put their health and the health of their families at risk when they cannot afford their drugs,” said AARP Director of Public Policy John Rother.
“Four of every 10 Hispanics or African Americans have difficulty paying for their drugs, which is why nearly nine in 10 people in the Hispanic and African American communities support state legislative fixes. Our job–and the job of our elected officials–is to address this problem with the urgency a crisis of this magnitude demands.”
Mary Powell has a combination of ailments. She has four prescriptions that cost her over $200 each month. Some months she has to choose between medication, rent, food and transportation.
“I have to take my medication so I can stay healthy enough to work. I have to get to work so I can get paid. I don’t have to eat as much of the foods I like all the time. I cut my food budget whenever I have too,” she told The Final Call.
“It’s a bad situation when you have to choose between essentials. It’s a good thing I don’t have a car. I wouldn’t be able to buy gas either.”
Latinos, according to the study, had the most difficulty paying for prescription drugs with more than four in 10 saying they had problems paying for a prescription in the past year; while 38 percent of Blacks experienced difficulty paying for drugs.
When asked about their ability to pay for prescription drugs over the next two years, 61 percent of Latinos and 68 percent of Blacks expressed concern.
AARP recommends that people consult their doctor for ways to reduce prescription costs.
Those ways include suggesting generics, talking with their doctor about the drugs they are taking and comparing drugs for possible substitutions.
For Ms. Powell, generic drugs have been a lifesaver.
“There was no way I could afford regular drugs. I had to get generics and some of them are still high. How do they expect people to live if they can’t afford their medicine? It doesn’t make sense. Somebody’s getting rich while people are trying to stay well,” she said.
Health insurance coverage is an important factor in the ability to pay for prescription drugs. The U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005, indicated that the uninsured rate for Latinos was 32.7 percent and 19.6 percent for Blacks.
Further, Blacks are more likely to have public insurance coverage through programs such as Medicaid and Medicare Part D. Latinos, however, are more likely to pay full retail price without the benefit of any discount for prescription drugs.
The report also found a majority support state legislation to help bring down drug prices. For instance, over 87 percent of both groups support state legislation to allow the states to do bulk purchasing for prescription drugs and pass the savings on to those without adequate drug coverage.