Checking her prescription prices on her insurance site, Michelle Murphy clicked Show My Receipts and almost cried.
The retired Sayreville teacher says she has good coverage, but she still paid more than $500 for the year. What shocked her was seeing that her insurance had paid close to $6,500 more on her behalf.
An AARP New Jersey advocacy volunteer, Murphy, 66, immediately thought of others who are less fortunate.
“If you don’t have insurance, what do you do? You pick and choose,” she says. “I have people who ask, ‘Am I going to pay for my utility bills or my medicine?’ ”
Containing soaring prescription drug costs is one of the top legislative priorities for AARP New Jersey.
“The pandemic has exacerbated long-standing weaknesses in the safety net that supports health and financial security,” says Evelyn Liebman, AARP New Jersey’s advocacy director.
Lowering Drug Prices
Gov. Phil Murphy (D) early last year signed into law a measure to help limit out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses for New Jersey families.
AARP is advocating for legislation to create a state Prescription Drug Affordability Board that would evaluate costs, determine fair payment rates and establish payment limits.
“It’s an effort to rein in what is the out-of-control pricing of prescription drugs this country grapples with,” says Liebman.
In 2017, 1 in 4 state residents stopped taking their medications as prescribed due to cost, according to the latest available data from the National Health Interview Survey.
Nursing Home Reform
AARP New Jersey has also championed a series of statewide reforms to long-term care.
New laws establish a state operations center to make nursing home needs a priority during disease outbreaks and other emergencies, set minimum ratios of direct-care staff to residents and put more revenue toward direct patient care. AARP continues to support more home- and community-based services so people can age in place.
On the financial front, AARP supports updating the state’s decades-old property-tax-relief programs so that older residents receive more help to offset increases. This year, with AARP’s advocacy, the Homestead Benefit program was updated. It had been based on 2006 tax bills even though New Jersey property taxes have increased 40 percent since then.
The current benefit is now based on 2017 property taxes, increasing the average amount residents will receive.
The program’s income eligibility limits also have remained unchanged for nearly a decade, an area on which AARP will continue to focus, Liebman says.
“New Jersey needs to stop shortchanging the Homestead Benefit program,” she told a state budget committee in March, “to help older residents stay in their homes and communities.”
It’s a potent subject: In August, 32 percent of New Jersey voters surveyed told Monmouth University pollsters that property taxes are one of the most important issues facing the state.
For more information on these issues, visit aarp.org/nj.
Peter J. Leffler is a writer living in Allentown, PA.
For More on Advocacy
- The Human Cost of High Drug Prices
- Tell Congress to Stop Unfair Prescription Pricing