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Affordable Prescription Drugs: A Matter of Life and Death

September 21, 2000

I consider my aunt to be a very healthy woman but I was shocked to learn that her prescription drug bill is over three hundred dollars a month. She now pays as much to stay healthy as she did years ago for her first home payment. My aunt should be enjoying life, not struggling to maintain it.

My uncle however is dead. Before he passed, he faced a heavy burden of expensive health care, particularly after his plant shut down and he lost his medical insurance. He wasn't able to find affordable health care because he previously had heart surgery and also had cancer. As long as he was working, he was covered. When he was no longer working, he was essentially abandoned by our health care system.

My Aunt and Uncle were not Wall Street big-shots, nor were they the CEOs of an internet company. Too young for Medicare, perhaps my Uncle didn't have to die so young. My aunt is working now and so has prescription drug insurance coverage. However, what about our seniors? Shouldn't we make prescription drugs available to them so they can enjoy life, itself? We all may find ourselves in their shoes one day. How we address this issue will determine our well-being in the future as well as the well-being of our nation. Assistance for our seniors must be a top priority for Congress.

It's a sad nation that discriminates against its mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. We must remember that today's elderly fought for our freedom. They gave us our culture and made this the greatest country on the planet.

Now they need our help… They deserve to get it.

The costs of prescription drugs are skyrocketing. Prices sometimes double for my aunt between prescription refills. A voluntary prescription drug program for Medicare is necessary to make our health care system for seniors complete. Congressional Democrats have been trying to enact a real, affordable, voluntary, and reliable Medicare prescription drug benefit for America's seniors. But the big insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies are standing in our way. What they offer is an alternative option that won't work and that isn't guaranteed. We know Medicare will always be there.

To help our seniors find even lower costs for their prescription drugs, this benefit should require private benefit providers to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors, giving seniors the same benefits that other large purchasing groups like HMO's currently get.

Affordable health care for our seniors should be provided with a smile; we shouldn't have to fight to provide them this right.

Cynthia McKinney
Member of Congress
Georgia's 4th Congressional District

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