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Medicare Turns 40 Years

By: Althea Paul
By: Althea Paul

July 29, 2005

It was a celebration Monday that marked 40 years of Medicare, and there are some changes to the future of the government program.

Michael Ludgate spends about $100 a month on prescription drugs. And the only reason it's not more money is because he orders his drugs from Canada.

"I'm paying roughly about 50 percent of what I'd be paying over-the-counter in the United States," said Ludgate.

Ludgate joins millions of others dealing with the high price of health care. For decades, Medicare has helped Americans to cope, but not in the case of prescription drugs - that is, until recently.

"To not have that available through Medicare, through the health care that's for people with disabilities and older adults, for 42 million Americans, was a tragedy," said health policy fellow at the Medicare Rights Center, Eva DuGoff.

With Medicare turning 40 soon, officials celebrated by giving out cake and ice cream at the Martha Jefferson Outpatient Care Center, and more importantly, giving much needed information on Medicare's new drug benefit.

"We wanted to highlight what is coming very soon for our seniors, which is the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit, which is a dramatic change in the Medicare provision," said director of pharmacy for Martha Jefferson, Janet Silvester.

And even though some say it still needs fine tuning, the new change should help many struggling to pay for their prescriptions.

"The statistics say that it's going to help three out of four people," said DuGoff.

Ludgate however is not so sure if he'll take advantage of the new coverage, but he's glad there's now another option.

"I think that obviously something had to happen," he said.

The new drug coverage came out of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. It's set to go into effect January. For more information, log on to their Web site at www.medicare.gov


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