NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Wealth Of Prescription Drug Benefits Already Available To Seniors

August 21, 2000

A new prescription drug entitlement for seniors is one of this campaign season's hottest issues. But federal, state and private efforts already provide free drugs to millions of needy Americans, knowledgeable observers report.

  • Some 70 percent of seniors pay nothing or less than $500 per year for prescription drugs, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance.
  • Drug companies will provide free drugs to some 2.4 million low-income people this year, reports the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America -- at an estimated wholesale cost of $934 million.
  • Eli Lilly & Co. operates several programs to distribute drugs to people in need of assistance.
  • Twenty states with more than 60 percent of the nation's 65-plus population already have their own prescription drug programs.

Experts are concerned that a new federal drug program would supplant -- rather than supplement -- state efforts in this area.

Then there is the question of costs. Estimates on the costs of the Clinton administration's drug scheme have already risen from $38 billion over five years to $79 billion over the same period, according to the White House.

Source: Daniel J. Murphy, "New Benefits for Prescription Drugs: A Solution Searching for a Problem?" Investor's Business Daily, August 21, 2000.


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