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'Medicine game' needs to end now

March 22, 2009

Re "Winning the medicine game," March 15: The story paints a near-hopeless picture. We are at the mercy of a healthcare system run amok, taken advantage of by health insurers and the pharmaceutical industry. Efforts for the public to legally and safely obtain medications from abroad may offer a ray of hope.

But the only realistic solution to this dilemma is being jump-started again in California, the single-payer initiative. It would cover prescriptions for every legal resident in the state without co-pays or deductibles. Especially those on Medicare would reap the rewards of affordable and lifesaving medications. The "medicine game" would be and should be over.

Jerome P. Helman, M.D.

Venice

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Prescription prices are putting the bite on household budgets? How about a drug that costs almost $12,000 per dose and has to be administered every three weeks indefinitely?

Thank goodness after much research, I was able to find foundations that help with the co-pays for this drug. These foundations have literally saved my life because I could not afford the deductible and co-pays after trying to keep up with the insurance premiums that must stay in force for me to continue with this treatment.

Of course, new drugs must be found to help those of us with life-threatening diseases, and I would not be alive and fine without this drug. But if the majority of us cannot afford these wonder drugs, even with insurance, what's the sense.

Sandra Simpson

Monrovia

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"Winning the medicine game" included strategies for navigating Medicare Part D's infamous coverage gap. What a shame that our country's last health reform effort left vulnerable and sick seniors without coverage in their time of greatest need.

Part D's many problems start with an over-reliance on the private sector. While Medicare beneficiaries can choose to receive doctor and hospital benefits from either a private plan or directly from Medicare, they are forced to enroll in a private plan to get drug coverage. As Congress looks for solutions to our healthcare crisis, creating a Medicare-sponsored Part D plan to compete with private plans should be at the top of their list.

Until Part D adequately serves those most in need, our healthcare system will continue to be over-taxed and millions of our elderly and disabled will be left with the unconscionable choice between medicine and food.

Kevin Prindiville

Oakland

(The writer is a staff attorney for the National Senior Citizens Law Center.)

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