April 1, 2013

Letters to the editor: Program cuts will hurt elderly Mainers

I am deeply concerned about our governor's proposed elimination of the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled Program as proposed in his biennial budget.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
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For 80,000 Maine residents, Gov. LePage’s proposal to eliminate the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled Program will have “severe (often fatal) consequences,” including strokes, heart attacks and comas, a reader says.

2000 AP File Photo/Pat Wellenbach

Cutting this program will impact seniors and persons with disabilities with very low incomes. Eighty thousand people are due to lose help with costs for prescription medications, effective July 1.

The program was established to provide help to seniors and persons with disabilities who qualify for Social Security benefits, who are 62 or over, residents of Maine and whose income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

Without this benefit, already vulnerable citizens will be unable to treat with medication severe medical conditions, including chronic lung disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, mental health conditions and so many more devastating conditions and diseases.

Already, many forgo taking their medication or take only a portion of what is prescribed. But these vulnerable 80,000 Mainers simply have nothing left to give.

Without these medications, there can be severe (often fatal) consequences -- strokes, heart attacks, comas and progressive deterioration of chronic illnesses. Hospitalizations, expensive surgeries and the need for long-term care can often be avoided for a much lower cost.

I benefit from this program. Without it, life will become harder. I am disabled and working, and I am "working on" growing old.

Without this program, which of the 20-plus prescription medications I take daily will I stop taking? These medications allow me to continue working and to function at a higher level than I have in many years. Trips to the emergency room and frequent hospitalizations have been avoided. I am able to function as an advocate and activist and be a voice for others who cannot raise their voices.

The state has other alternatives. Our elders and disabled do not.

Betsy Fecto

Portland

Beginning March 25, the Department of Health and Human Services changed services for nursing facility (nursing home) residents who are covered by MaineCare. These residents will now be allowed only four days of hospital care per fiscal year.

If patients accrue more than four days, they will be discharged from their nursing homes unless they self-pay to keep their places -- the state will not allow beds to be held longer than that.

This change is discriminatory in that it targets a specific group of citizens but does not affect other Maine-Care recipients who also receive specialized health care.

Sick babies covered by MaineCare are not limited to four days in NICU; cardiac patients are not limited to four days per year of specialized cardiac care; MaineCare recipients in subsidized housing won't lose their homes if they are hospitalized for more than four days.

Yet sick nursing home residents who require hospitalization are faced with either limiting their hospital care or losing their places in the facilities they call home.

They risk losing the caregivers who know them best, fellow residents with whom they have developed bonds and surroundings with which they have become familiar.

In some cases, elderly married couples could be separated as a result of one losing his/her nursing home bed due to hospitalization.

Hospitals will certainly be impacted. Patients from nursing homes will still need nursing home care when they leave, so discharge planning will have to arrange placement. Patients could be sent to a facility in another part of the state, far from loved ones, if that is the only place with an available bed.

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