To hear the voices of older Americans who face high drug costs month after month is to hear fear and worry, anger and stress. Many say they’re figuring out how to make ends meet, skipping vacations and other goodies they’ve been saving up for.
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 that affects the thyroid, has been a struggle since she started getting Medicare. in March.
Ms. Armbruster, of Cary, Ill., said she saved extra insulin from prescriptions taken when she had commercial insurance, enough to cut costs before a monthly cap kicked in. But her other conditions have caused great 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 arthritis; Synthroid, which she takes for Graves’ disease; Eliquis, for atrial fibrillation, insulin and her insulin pump.
“It’s about thinking ahead, looking for alternatives and strategizing the household budget to be able to get the medicine we need,” she said. Learning to keep up with costs, she added, was like “baptism by fire, learning everything I can 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 staggering prices for drugs including Eliquis, for a heart condition, and Namenda, an Alzheimer’s drug. Mr. Spring also took an antidepressant and medication to mitigate side effects from Namenda.