Getting Answers: senior prescription costs on the rise

Western Mass News is digging deeper into the issue, getting answers on the programs available for senior citizens.
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 5:55 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2022 at 6:46 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Almost everything is going up in price these days, including your prescription medications, but it may be harder for those on a fixed income, like our senior community, to afford those drugs.

Western Mass News is digging deeper into the issue, getting answers on the programs available for senior citizens.

“It’s just hard,” Nancy Gates of West Springfield told us. “It’s a hard time for all of us.”

Inflation is taking a toll on everything, including prescription medications.

“I’ve met with people at the senior center who’s prescription is $10,000 a month,” said Linda Parent, a volunteer counselor for the Shine Program, a program aimed at helping seniors make smart health insurance choices.

The average prescription medication cost across the U.S. is $135, and Massachusetts residents are spending about $268.21 each year -- the second highest in the country – according to new research from NiceRX, which provides FDA-approved prescription drugs through patience assistance programs.

The wallets getting hit the hardest are those on fixed incomes, our senior community.

Jean Carol Brocka told Western Mass News that she only has one prescription she relies on, but if she had to take more medication, she is not sure what she would do.

“If I ever had to take more drugs, I think I’d have a problem,” Brocka said.

Parent told us that she has been listening to their concerns about not having enough money lately to afford all the necessities.

“I’ll have people say to me, ‘I just can’t afford it, so I’m not going to take it,’” she said.

Nancy Gates is hearing that, too, from her peers at the West Springfield Council on Aging.

“You have to rob Peter to pay Paul,” she said.

Parent told us that there are some programs out there to help seniors in financial need, and Shine helps connect people to them.

“There’s a prescription advantage plan that will help pay some of your copays,” she said.

That plan is the Massachusetts Prescription Advantage Program, which provides financial assistance to both qualified Medicare, and non-Medicare individuals.

There’s also the Massachusetts Rx Assistance Program, which is free and available to everyone, and aims to help offset high prescription costs.

However, Parent said that these programs are not enough, and most of those programs are earning-based, meaning it only applies to those making a certain income or less.

“They all have an earning requirement, which is pretty low,” she told us.

That is the case for Brocka.

“I make a hair over, and it’s very difficult because I don’t get the help that other people are getting,” she said.

Now, back in August, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed by President Joe Biden. That law includes several provisions aimed at lowering prescription drug costs for those on Medicare, a step in the right direction sure, but some still believe more needs to be done.

“Some of our low-income seniors really struggle between, ‘Do I pay my rent or do I buy my prescriptions?’” Parent said. “That’s just not the way we should operate in this country.”

For more information on financial resources offered to seniors needing help with medical costs, you can go to the Shine Program’s website.