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'It's very frustrating': Voters voice concerns with rising health care costs

The Inflation Reduction Act is expected to provide financial relief to millions of people on Medicare who are struggling with expensive prescription drugs.
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Posted at 10:44 AM, May 22, 2024

Juliana Zoet likes to spend quality time with her teenage son Christian. She has a good-paying job and employee health insurance, but she still worries about medical bills.

"The deductible is so high," she said. "Just out of pocket, I'm still paying from 2023 and 2024 on a payment plan," said Zoet.

She remembers a time when that wasn't an issue.

"When I had Christian, I didn't see a bill," she said.

Julie Buckholt feels the same type of stress when it comes to paying medical bills. There are days when her myasthenia gravis — a rare neuromuscular disease — impacts every part of her body, from eating to breathing to smiling.

If she won $1 million, it would not be enough to cover all her weekly infusions.

"The cost for these medications is out of control," said Buckholt.

When the Milwaukee educator went on disability, Medicare helped cover her costs, but she has still been forced to navigate charitable foundations for financial help with her medication.

"I still have to fight for my medication with disability," she said.

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Before that, she became a big fan of the Affordable Care Act, which ended lifetime limits on benefits and protected families like hers with preexisting conditions.

But challenges exist.

"We need to have easier access to doctors with an illness like this and you're waiting to see a specialist. It's very frustrating," said Buckholt.

President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act is expected to provide financial relief to millions of people on Medicare who are struggling with very expensive prescription drugs by capping out-of-pocket drug spending.

"We've got to pull the curtain that's masking how drug pricing is done," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, when asked how to lower drug costs for everyone.

The new law will allow the secretary to negotiate with drug companies on a selected 10 specific drugs covered by Medicare Part D.

"We want the manufacturers to still make their profit," he said. "But we don't want to pay hyperextended prices."

In his first term, former President Donald Trump signed the Right to Try Law to make experimental drug treatments and drugs available to people facing terminal illnesses.

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Trump has talked about replacing the Affordable Care Act, but it's unclear how or what that would look like.

Tommy Thompson, a four-time elected Republican governor and secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, says the health care system needs attention.

"It's not on life support, but it has some serious problems," he said.

Thompson partially blames those problems on too many rules and regulations that make the health care system less efficient and accessible. He believes innovation is needed to allow doctors and nurses more time to see more patients.

"There are a lot of regulations we have that people don't adhere to," Thompson said. "We should get rid of those. We should make it more streamlined and efficient."

For Zoet, the sooner the better to find a solution.

"I think we can all benefit from coming together," said Zoet. "It can be fixed, if you sit at the table with an open mind and talk about the issue instead of the political part of it."