Cut Inflation Act Will Cut Crucial Healthcare Costs For Michigan Seniors

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This article is part of Health, a series about how Michigan communities are stepping up to address health challenges. It is made possible thanks to funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

Along with climate change and deficit reduction measures, the broad provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) include several game-changing developments for seniors’ healthcare costs. Starting in 2023, the law will reduce prescription drug costs for people with Medicare, cap insulin disbursements at $35 per monthand allowing the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids for the first time.

“Due to the exorbitant cost of medication, a number of people, especially the elderly, do not take their medication as they should. Either take a lower dose of insulin or cut the pills in half and take less than is prescribed,” says Nathaniel Bergman, a pharmacist at Michigan’s Region VII Zonal Agency on Aging (AAA), which serves seven counties in and around the Thumb area. “When we’re able to lower the cost of insulin and other medications, we’re much more likely to see these people taking their medications the way they’re supposed to.”
Nathaniel Bergman.
Being able to afford prescribed medications will, of course, help these older Michiganders better manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. According to Bergman, the result will not only be improved health and quality of life for thousands of people, but also reduced overall long-term costs for the state’s public and private healthcare systems.

“There will also be mental health benefits. High drug costs are a mental health stressor,” Bergman said. “Patients have to ask themselves, ‘Do I put food on my table or do I take my medicine?’ If we remove that mental anguish, we can better help their mental health.”

According to Melissa Seifert, AARP Michigan Associate State Director for Government Affairs, one in three Michigan residents do not take prescribed, sometimes life-saving medications to control chronic disease.

“The main reason they keep quoting is the cost. They can’t afford the prescriptions,” she says. “These prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford to take them. We want these people to live happy, fulfilling and engaging lives so they can contribute to the economy and be healthy while they do.”
Melissa Seifert.
AARP has been advocating for lower prescription drug costs since 2018 at the state and federal levels. In Michigan, tele-town halls allowed residents to share their concerns with members of Congress. Some told stories of traveling to Canada to find better prices. Others have admitted to cutting their insulin doses in half to make ends meet.

“This is a monumental victory for Michigan residents who receive Medicare,” Seifert said. “I want us all to take a moment and give everyone who participated in this a big high five and a slap on the back because it wasn’t for the faint of heart.”

Affordable insulin is a big win for Michiganders living with diabetes

When diabetes is not managed with the right combination of prescribed medications, physical activity and diet, the results can be heart disease, stroke, amputation, kidney failure, blindness and death. . According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 11.5% of adults in Michigan, or more than 900,000 people, live with diagnosed diabetes. An additional 239,000 Michiganders have diabetes but don’t know it. Another 2.7 million Michiganders have pre-diabetes. Diagnosed diabetes costs Michigan about $9.7 billion each year.

“Michigans who have diabetes and need this lifesaving drug were paying three times as much as other countries for the exact same drug,” Seifert said. “We still have a lot of work to do to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and for all Michiganders, so that we can all age with dignity and purpose, and be healthy and happy doing it.”

Building on the IRA, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a executive directive in October 2022 to determine how the state can further reduce insulin costs, including developing insulin manufacturing capabilities within the state.

“Our neighbours, family and friends with diabetes need insulin to survive and for too long drug companies have hiked prices, forcing them to make impossible choices between medicine, food, rent or other drugs. ‘other bills,’ Whitmer said when the directive was released. “The American people pay 10 times more for insulin than citizens of other comparable countries and costs have tripled in the last decade alone…together we will lower the cost of insulin, hold societies responsible pharmaceuticals and save lives.”

Financial assistance for the hearing impaired

The IRA provision for over-the-counter hearing aid sales is another cost-saving measure that will help seniors. The The National Institutes of Health have determined that nearly 30 million Americans could potentially benefit from hearing aids, but only 30% of people age 70 and older currently use them. For those who go without, cost is the main reason. Prescription hearing aids cost between $1,000 and $4,000 per ear and are usually not covered by insurance. Dr. Devin McCaslin, Director of Audiology and Professor of Otorhinolaryngology at Michigan Medicinesays the over-the-counter hearing aids will be available at retailers and medical provider offices, including Michigan Medicine facilities, for around $800 a pair.
Dr Devin McCaslin.
“The underlying engine of this new category [of hearing aids] is to help provide access for people with mild to moderate hearing loss,” McCaslin says. [is that] more and more people are going to have access to affordable hearing care and that’s exciting.”

However, McCaslin emphasizes the importance of having a professional hearing test before purchasing over-the-counter hearing aids – to determine that the hearing loss is in the mild to moderate range and to rule out medical causes of the hearing loss, which could be as simple as a buildup of earwax or as serious as a tumor.

“Typically, people with mild to moderate hearing loss [are] will have difficulty understanding softly spoken words, soft-spoken people, and have issues with background noise,” McCaslin says. “A hearing test performed by a hearing care professional is really the only way to understand whether or not this is a viable candidate for one of these devices.”

Since using an OTC hearing aid will most often require the use of a smartphone and Bluetooth technology, people who use them will require a level of comfort with the technology. For others, even an $800 price tag will prevent them from getting the hearing aid they need. But those who can afford it will reap considerable benefits.

“There are a lot of negative consequences of not keeping your hearing,” McCaslin says. “Being able to hear properly is not only socially beneficial, but it is also a safety concern. There is also a lot of emerging evidence indicating that hearing aids can actually help reduce cognitive decline… and reduce fatigue.

spread the word

Now, the challenge for healthcare providers is to make sure Michigan seniors are aware of these money-saving and hassle-saving changes. Michigan’s regional agencies on aging, like Region VII AAA, are taking the lead in informing customers of reduced costs when they come to discuss their health insurance options.

Medicare/Medicaid assistance programs done through your local aging agency is a wealth of information,” says Seifert. “They schedule appointments with people to discuss their health care needs, how which Medicaid or Medicare might benefit them and which plans would work best for them. »

“It’s a very, very complicated system,” adds Bergman. “I encourage any senior, and even family members of seniors, to contact their local aging agency and apply for this assistance with Medicare or Medicaid.”

AARP has information about the IRA and cost savings on its website. AARP Michigan plans to hold teleconference events to help seniors understand and benefit from the savings made possible by the IRA.

“There’s a lot of excitement around this monumental win, but also a lot of confusion about what it will look like,” Seifert said. “Now that we’ve embraced it, we need to make sure we educate and reach out to our members about what their benefits are in this new world.”

Estelle Slootmaker is a writer specializing in journalism, book publishing, communications, poetry and children’s books. You can contact her at [email protected] or www.constellations.biz.

Photos of Nathaniel Bergman by Crystal Gwizdala. All other photos courtesy of subjects.

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