In a blockbuster Associated Press story your local paper may have skipped, Kelli Kennedy reports that patients with cancer and other serious diseases all over the country are being hammered by the same problem: the one-size-fits-all structure of Obamacare plans imposes outrageously high out-of-pocket costs for their specialty drugs.
Kennedy tells us about breast cancer survivor Ginny Mason, who could no longer afford her arthritis medication under Obamacare because of the out-of-pocket costs. To stay on Celebrex Mason would have had to pay $648 a month up to a $1,500 deductible, and then a co-pay of $85 a month.
“I was grateful for the Affordable Care Act because it didn’t turn me down but ... it’s like where’s the affordable on this one,” Mason said.
Brian Rosen, senior vice president for public policy for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society told Kennedy that specialty cancer drugs are prohibitively expensive under Obamacare.
Rosen explained: “The challenge is for the sickest patients, the ones that need access to these specialty drugs, the costs are going to come in most cases from that out of pocket cap ... they are likely to hit that $6,350 ceiling and in some cases quickly.”
For patients who are told their drugs will cost thousands of dollars in a given month, the consequences are dire. Many simply do not have the money, and others face decisions like skipping a mortgage payment or a child’s tuition.
A recent study from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine “found that patients with higher co-payments were 70 percent more likely to stop taking their cancer treatment and 42 percent more likely to skip doses.”
Yet following the lead of the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, many self-appointed “fact checkers” find themselves in the unusual position of trying to downplay or dismiss this widespread problem for the sickest and most vulnerable Americans. That’s because the first time the issue came to their attention was in a devastating TV commercial that featured Dexter, Michigan’s Julie Boonstra, whose credibility liberals thought necessary to destroy.
A Leukemia patient, Boonstra has been subjected to a brutal onslaught for having the temerity to stand up to Barack Obama and Gary Peters - a Michigan congressman who wants to be a senator - for their infamous lie that because she liked her health care plan she could keep it.
The attacks on Boonstra have already been thoroughly refuted by Dan Calabrese and Henry Payne, among others. Boonstra herself bravely took to the pages of the Detroit News to tell her story.
In brief, her premiums did go down considerably, but her new plan carries out-of-pocket expenses of over $5,000 in-network and over $10,000 if she has to go out of network - a real possibility for a cancer patient. And the new plan excludes long-term care and nursing care. Perhaps most significantly, her drug costs could easily force her to spend thousands in the first months of the year, before the out-of-pocket cap is reached - precisely the problem that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society warns is happening to the sickest patients all over the country.
Sick Americans, already fighting for their lives, are now facing the additional stress of losing plans they were promised they could keep and confronting much higher out-of-pocket drug costs. Politicians who are so desperately touting their intention to “fix Obamacare” after the next election need to stop attacking patients for speaking out and start taking concrete actions -- now -- to actually solve the problem.
Mr. Kerpen is the president of American Commitment and the author of “Democracy Denied.” Kerpen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.