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The Tidal Wave of Senior Patients is Here

Mike Hennessy
Published Online: Thursday, January 13, 2011   [ Request Print ]


The start of a new year usually brings a wave of resolutions and goals that will better our lives. For many, those resolutions involve taking better care of their health. Pharmacists are familiar with the sudden rush of patients who come in to review their drugs, choose new supplements and nutritional aids, and ask questions. Seniors, who are often taking multiple medications, are frequently the ones seeking your professional advice and care.

We know that you as the pharmacist are the key player in the medication adherence and ultimate health of elderly patients. This month’s cover story, “Medication Adherence: Issues in Elderly Patients,” gives some good insight on how best to treat patients in this growing segment. Pharmacies are full of seniors who come in with questions about their medications, concerns about cost, and at times, confusion about their insurance coverage. In fact, many pharmacists routinely find themselves explaining the complicated policies and fee structures insurance policies impose for this age group.

Health care spending has been on the rise for decades, to the point that we’ve become numb to the numbers. But the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) gives us a fresh opportunity to look at those increases.

In their recent book, Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis, authors Scott Bittle and Jena Johnson call Medicare “the real budget buster.” They point out that the government has made commitments in so-called “unfunded liabilities” that will bankrupt the country to the tune of $56 trillion. Of that, $34 trillion is for Medicare alone. The Administration maintains that the ACA reduces Medicare spending, but they achieve this math by the political trick of counting 10 years of revenue but only 6 years of expenses. Knowing what we know about the growth of the senior population and the continuing increases in costs, it’s clear that we’ll need more than convoluted political math to get a handle on costs.

In the aftermath of the ACA, the actions of certain organizations who supported the bill are coming into focus. AARP leadership was one of the ACA’s strongest backers, despite the misgivings of many of its members, and now we’re learning why. According to recent coverage in the Wall Street Journal and other outlets, three quarters of a million seniors will lose their private, fee-for-service Medicare Advantage plans as insurance companies drop these plans in reaction to much more stringent federal requirements under the new law. The result? AARP’s own Medigap insurance policies will rise to the top—thanks to the preferential treatment received from the administration.

In HHS’ proposed regulations, dated December 21, AARP’s popular Medigap plans were exempted from the more onerous legal mandates and requirements competitors will face. AARP also doesn’t have to worry about paying any of the new taxes on insurance companies. The Obama Administration appears to be rewarding its backers with extravagant gifts. So much for changing the culture in Washington.

Our Aging Population theme in this issue offers a wealth of new ideas, resources, and advice on how best to serve this important patient group. I encourage you to read and save this issue, and also download our free app for the iPad Edition, which includes unique content and multimedia resources. As always, our Continuing Education activity—“New Drugs of 2010: Part 1”—comes to you free of charge, a unique service you can only find with Pharmacy Times.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy

 





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