To hear the voices of older Americans who confront high drug costs month in and month out is to hear fear and worry, anger and stress. Many say they are figuring out how to get by, skipping vacations and other niceties for which they saved.
For Kim Armbruster, 65, who recently retired after a 40-year nursing career, keeping down the costs of her medications for diabetes, psoriatic arthritis and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid, has been a scramble since she started on Medicare in March.
Ms. Armbruster, of Cary, Ill., said she had saved extra insulin from prescriptions filled when she had commercial insurance, enough to keep costs down before a monthly cap kicks in. But her other conditions have caused immense financial strain.
By June, she had reached Medicare’s threshold for catastrophic coverage after paying more than $7,000 for Enbrel, a drug she takes for the arthritis; Synthroid, which she takes for Graves’ disease; Eliquis, for atrial fibrillation, insulin and her insulin pump.
“It’s all about thinking ahead, looking for alternatives and strategizing the home budget to be able to take the necessary meds,” she said. Learning to keep up with costs, she added, had been like “baptism by fire, to learn everything I can possibly learn about it to maneuver drug costs and stay healthy without complications.”
The carousel of medications taken by Mr. Spring, the dementia patient who died in April, included eye-popping price tags for drugs including Eliquis, for a heart condition, and Namenda, an Alzheimer’s drug. Mr. Spring also took an antidepressant and medications to dull the side effects from Namenda.