NJ to expand prescription drug programs to over 20,000 older people

TRENTON – State lawmakers have started the process of expanding New Jersey’s prescription drug programs to more than 20,000 additional seniors, as Gov. Phil Murphy suggested in his 2022 budget plan .

Under the proposal, the income limits for Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Elderly and Disabled and Senior Gold would increase by $ 10,000. They would be $ 38,769 for a single person and $ 45,270 for a married couple in PAAD, with those $ 10,000 thresholds higher under Senior Gold.

MP Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, said the cost of prescriptions can be so sky-high that some seniors split their medications in half to make them last longer, even if doing so makes them less effective.

“I think we can all agree that the cost of prescription drugs is obviously a challenge for a lot of us – and obviously for our seniors,” said Vainieri Huttle.

The bill was approved last week by the Assembly’s Committee on Aging and Seniors’ Services, and is now awaiting a second approval by the Assembly’s Budget Committee. The Senate Health and Seniors Committee plans to review the plan at its meeting on Thursday.

Katie York, deputy state director of advocacy for AARP New Jersey, said the average Medicare Part D registrant takes four to five prescription drugs per month, with some facing out-of-pocket costs of $ 10,000 per year.

“Too many Garden State residents are forced to choose between life-saving drugs and paying rent, buying food and meeting other basic needs,” York said.

“In 2017, nearly one in four New Jerseyes quit taking prescription drugs because of the cost, and we know things haven’t gotten any easier since,” she said.

Cathy Rowe, executive director of New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well, said the expansion would include upfront costs – estimated at nearly $ 7 million in PAAD, which is about 95% of the expected increase – but would generate additional costs. long-term savings.

“We expect better health, reduced medical interventions, reduced disability, and reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits,” Rowe said.

Rowe said many older residents are caught in the middle when it comes to health care costs such as prescriptions and that will become increasingly important and complicated as more drugs are approved to treat conditions. , thus improving the quality and quantity of life.

“Their income is too high to qualify for Medicaid or other programs, but they don’t have the resources to live comfortably while supporting their medical needs,” Rowe said.

Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].

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