In his 30 years as a pharmacist, state Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville) saw firsthand the hard choices that many people must make when they can’t afford the medicine they need.
“They forgo buying medication because they need a new refrigerator or car repair,” he said.
“They don’t have a lot of extra money, so when something comes up, something’s got to go.”
That’s why Sater has been leading a drive in the state legislature to fully restore the Missouri Rx (MORx) program that helps low-income older adults pay for prescription drugs, one of AARP’s top priorities.
Last year the General Assembly voted to restrict the program to only those enrollees who were eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, cutting off 64,000 Missourians.
In response, Sater introduced a bill to fully restore the program. It passed the Senate with just one dissenting vote but failed in the House, where critics balked at the $15 million price tag.
Sater, chair of the Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee, said he’s going to try again in 2019.
“This is almost a life-or-death type of issue,” he said.
Restoring MORx is also a priority for AARP for the new session, which begins Jan. 9. “It means a lot to people who have to buy expensive prescription drugs and don’t have the means,” said Jay Hardenbrook, advocacy director for AARP Missouri.
Other legislative priorities:
Earlier this year, AARP succeeded in getting a partial restoration of cuts to funding for paid part-time caregivers who provide services such as bathing to low-income people on Medicaid.
The cuts had reduced or eliminated services to more than 8,000 older people and those with disabilities.
“We’re going to push for full restoration,” Hardenbrook said. “We need to get back to keeping people in their homes and out of nursing homes.”
Sater said he will work to increase funding for those services.
Utility rate increases
Legislation that passed last year allows utilities to raise rates annually by bypassing the normal review by the Missouri Public Service Commission. AARP strongly opposed the law and is gearing up to fight new increases.
“We need to put in extra protection to keep rates from going up too quickly,” Hardenbrook said. “Those costs can be incredibly detrimental.”
The CARE Act
An AARP Missouri priority passed by the legislature in July—the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act—supports caregivers when a loved one comes home from a hospital stay.
The law requires the hospital to inform a designated family caregiver before the patient is discharged and to show the caregiver how to perform necessary medical tasks.
Hardenbrook said AARP is focusing on compliance. “We want to make sure every caregiver gets notified and gets instruction,” he said.
Sater has retired from his pharmacy, but when the legislature cut funding for prescription drug aid, he heard about it from seniors. “These people are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said.
“I’m going to keep beating on the door until it gets through.”
Tim Poor is a writer living in Clayton.