Opinion

Breaking Down Barriers to Care and Protecting Seniors’ Well-Being

Volunteer members of the Visalia Gleaning Seniors sort, pack and deliver donated vegetables and fruit to 13 distribution points around the city. Photo courtesy of the Visalia Gleaning Seniors. (Visalia Gleaning Seniors)
President of Visalia Gleaning Seniors

Imagine a vibrant community of thriving seniors, who are able to access the resources and opportunities they need to maintain their health and well-being. However, lurking in the shadows are barriers that threaten their healthcare options—obstacles that often go unnoticed.

As the President of a local nonprofit that seeks to help seniors, I have gained profound insight into the challenges faced by many members of our community, particularly when it comes to accessing affordable medications.

In our golden years, medical needs tend to increase, making prescription drugs indispensable. Unfortunately, for many seniors, the path to obtaining these vital medications is obstructed by high out-of-pocket costs and limited access. The culprits behind this injustice are the shadowy figures known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs).

PBMs act as intermediaries, positioned between insurance providers and drug manufacturers. Their policies are driven by a profit-maximization agenda. By retaining the discounts and rebates secured from manufacturers, PBMs burden seniors with exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses.

The impact of these practices is extensive, yet often misunderstood. While drug manufacturers have stepped up to provide copay assistance, insurers and PBMs often deny patients the benefit of this assistance through programs they implement. To address the root causes of unaffordable medications, it is crucial for our federal lawmakers to consider passing laws that enforce PBM accountability to ensure a more transparent healthcare system and affordable treatments for patients. In doing so, they could address the burdensome costs passed on to consumers by PBMs, ensuring that seniors are not financially strained when accessing necessary medications.

Seniors deserve certainty and relief, rather than financial strain, and our policymakers should advocate for comprehensive solutions that address the true barriers to accessibility and affordability in prescription treatments, including the role of PBMs at the pharmacy counter. Seniors aspire to have peace of mind, knowing that they can access the medications they need to thrive, while promising new treatments on the horizon.

I hope both parties come together to prioritize legislation that holds PBMs accountable for a more transparent and affordable healthcare system. The well-being of our seniors, ourselves, and future generations hinges on Washington’s collective action to implement change and prioritize PBM reform.

Judie Casey is the President of Visalia Gleaning Seniors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing seniors in Farmersville, Exeter, Dinuba, and Visalia with fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables contributed by local farmers, ranchers, packing houses, and other organizations. She can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (559) 733-5352.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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