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WV Medicare

September 01, 2000

WV Medicare



When the Medicare program was enacted in 1965, hospital stays were the routine for senior citizens who got seriouslu ill. But in the decades since then, advances and medicine and the desire to cut costs have meant replacing time spent on the wards with more aggressive drug treatments.

The problem is, the Medicare program hasn't kept pace with those changes, and as the cost of medicine has gone up, some seniors have had to choose between buying food or their prescriptions. And so it's no surprise that in West Virginia, with an aging population increasingly unable to afford health insurance, that improving seniors' prescription drug care has become the top issue in most statewide and Congressional races.

Unfortunately, this is one of those issues which it's easy to express concern about, but difficult to devise a solution for. The Associated Press' Charleston bureau recently interviewed Kevin Leyden, a political science professor at West Virginia University, who said that it's one of those issues a candidate can't afford not to address.

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The problem is the cost, and who'll pay it. When Congressional legislation cut Medicare reimbursements a couple of years ago, care providers in rural areas, who had been giving prescription care as part of their service, began pulling out. And to keep the federal budget in balance, federal officials are wary of enacting another program that will only get more expensive as the percentage of older Americans grows.

The most realitsic solution (at least for a state acting alone) is to find another funding source. Gov. Cecil Underwood would dedicate some state lottery revenues for that purpose. The state might even create a new game with all the revenues deidcate to senior prescription aid.

Yes, that would make the elderly dependent on the proceeds of a game of chance. But the unrealistic alternatives we're hearing - like new mandates that insurance companies provide a service that they haven't found affordable up until now - will only drive such firms out of state and leave the aged in a more precarious position than they are now.

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