I recently attended a meeting of the Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB) who is charged with setting the price for public employee retiree medical premiums. They approved increases for retirees in the Uniform Medical Plan of 20 percent or $55.51 per month.
About 60,000 retirees buying insurance through the PEBB use this plan. According to the board this is primarily due to increased costs of prescription medications. The U.S. Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, has shown time and time again that they are in the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry and that they are not inclined to take any steps to curtail the enormous profits that those companies are making. Many retirees testified before the board relating how they cannot afford these increases and some stated they had had to forego doctor prescribed medications because of cost.
It is up to us in Washington state to take steps towards insuring the lowest possible costs and the highest safety standards are employed for prescription drugs. The PEBB has entered into agreements with other states, Oregon in particular, to increase their purchasing power but much more has to be done. The Washington Legislature, the governor, the attorney general’s office, the PEBB, and local governments must put the pressure on the pharmacy industry through the use of regulatory initiatives to the people, antitrust lawsuits, legislation, and bulk purchasing to ensure reasonable costs for prescription drugs.
I urge all Washingtonians to contact their elected officials and demand action on this important issue. This is life.
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Denny Johnston, Olympia