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Health News Florida

Jacksonville retiree group lobbies senators for lower drug prices

From left to right: Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Regional Vice President Preston Drummer, ACLU Field Representative Alex Pizarro, Chapter President Ann Rivers, Russell Harper, Joyce Wesley, Luella McQueen and Joseph George met with staff from Sen. Marco Rubio's office to discuss federal legislation that would lower the price of prescription drugs for seniors.
Raymon Troncoso
/
WJCT News
From left to right: Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Regional Vice President Preston Drummer, ACLU Field Representative Alex Pizarro, Chapter President Ann Rivers, Russell Harper, Joyce Wesley, Luella McQueen and Joseph George met with staff from Sen. Marco Rubio's office to discuss federal legislation that would lower the price of prescription drugs for seniors.

A local chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans wants Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio to support legislation that would decrease health care and prescription drug costs for seniors.

Jacksonville seniors are calling on Florida's senators to back legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs and health care.

The Jacksonville chapter of the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans met with a staff member for Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday and anticipate a meeting with members of Sen. Rick Scott's staff in the coming weeks.

The group shared stories of their personal struggles with high prescription costs.

Preston Drummer, regional vice president for FARA, talked about avoiding filling a prescription for a drug that aids his mobility for several months because the high cost affected his ability to get groceries.

"But I broke down and paid for it, so maybe in a few days I'll be ready to move a little better when I get a few pills under my belt, but that's the kind of crises that we're faced with, whether or not we can eat, have some recreational freedom to move about, or whether we're gonna just stay at home and become a couch potato," Drummer said.

"I'm 89 years old and I've been active all my life and I don't want to throw in the towel now, so we need help, and the senators can provide it."

The two bills they're calling the senators to support, introduced during the previous congressional session, would allow for Medicare to negotiate prices for drugs like private companies do and would allow for cheaper generics to be imported from other countries.

Joyce Wesley, a FARA member who also works as a Medicare plan adviser, said the issue of drug costs and the inability of Medicare to negotiate has lowered the quality of care available to seniors.

"I experience it firsthand myself," she said. "I was on a drug that was causing liver damage, possible liver damage. I found out that two years ago there's a drug out on the market that doesn't have the effect of bothering your liver. Well guess what? It's a higher costing drug."

Wesley says the situation is common, with Medicare recipients having access only to cheaper, potentially outdated versions of medications, which can lead to worse health outcomes, which means more money down the line for medical services.

"For an individual who has an income of $12,000 a year, that's out of reach. There are drugs that are out of reach because of cost. It's having a negative effect because individuals are not taking their medications and they do not have the opportunity to get the best care available, and that is a problem and these bills would help."

The group said they were optimistic about their meeting with Rubio's staff, whom they referred to as receptive.

Asked whether the senator had reviewed the policy proposals and taken a stance, a representative for Rubio's office said, "Sen. Rubio’s team is always is eager to meet with constituents, understand their concerns, and do what is possible at a federal level to make life better for the people of Florida."

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