One speaker urged seniors to ask their doctors for the most effective and least expensive drugs rather than those most advertised.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LIBERTY -- Area senior citizens are getting angry and frustrated and going broke because of Congress' failure to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare, speakers at a rally here said.
Speaking out at the rally by the American Association of Retired People on Wednesday at the Holiday Inn MetroPlex, older citizens from Mahoning and Trumbull counties and as far away as Cleveland say some elderly not eligible for prescription drug coverage have to choose between food and medicine.
Connie Korda of Austintown said that nine days after LTV ended health-care coverage for her husband, he had a heart attack. After treatment, he had seven prescriptions filled that cost $831 a month, taking all but a few dollars of his $900 Social Security check.
"In a country this rich, that is wrong. Other countries find a way to take care of their people," Korda said.
Joe Vargo of Parma, an AARP volunteer, urged seniors to call or write their U.S. senators -- George Voinovich of Cleveland and Michael DeWine of Cedarville -- and make their feelings known.
AARP believes changes are possible if its members stand together and send a message to Washington, D.C., that now is the time to keep its promise and add prescription drug coverage to Medicare.
"We know that when AARP members raise their voices, Congress hears," Vargo said.
It is not only the elderly who need the coverage, said Theresa Hill of Austintown, whose disabled adult daughter also needs help with drug costs.
Olla Tate of Youngstown, past president of AARP Chapter 4611 East, said an elderly family member has diabetes and requires one drug that costs $126 a month. Not only is it not covered by Medicare, but he is a veteran and can't get help from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
David Powell, president of Minority Communications Resources, urged seniors to use their power at the ballot box, from local to national offices. Politicians will listen totheir votes, he said.
Powell also suggested seniors stop asking for the most-advertised drugs and ask their doctors for the most effective and least expensive, and that AARP strengthen its alliances with other organizations with similar interests.
Bill Luoma, president of SOAR (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees) Chapter 1.28-5, says not much help can be expected from Ohio's Republican senators.
"It's going to take effort on our parts. We need to step forward on our own and force these individuals into action," he said.
Vargo said he understands some of the hard feelings about politicians.
"But, it will require a bipartisan effort. We need to work with both parties. There are two things that are effective in Washington: money power and voting power," he said.
Vargo said AARP wants a bipartisan Medicare prescription drug coverage that is affordable, has no coverage gaps and is voluntary.
Voinovich can be reached by writing in care of the Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510. The number there is (202) 224-3353. Voinovich's Columbus office number is (614) 469-6697.
DeWine can be written in care of the Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510. His number there is (202) 224-2315. His Columbus office number is (614) 469-6774.