Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Medications or food? Many face tough choices


Cutting medications in half to make them last longer, making a choice between medications and food - those are some of the problems facing people on expensive medications, said several people at the discussion with Samantha Mills, a field representative from Sen. Al Franken's staff, when she met with local people in Moose Lake on Tuesday, March 29.

"Sen. Franken wants stories that he can show what the problems are when he is trying to pass a bill," said Mills. "He is working to reduce the cost of prescription drugs."

Two women in the group said they were on disability. Both are under retirement age but have had to retire because of their health issues.

"I just got my disability," said one of the women. "I had to wait for seven months. During that time, I had surgeries and had to take medications. Now I am wondering if there is a lien on my home that has to be paid when I die. My daughter lives with me and I don't want to burden her with that expense."

Because of those fears, the woman said she often wondered if she should stretch her medications by cutting them in half to save the expense.

The other woman said she receives income and medical care coverage from several sources but is concerned for elderly people, like those she used to take care of when she was employed.

"I was in the pharmacy in Moose Lake one day and one elderly man had to pay $412 for medications for him and his wife," she said. "That's a car payment or a mortgage payment!

"A retired neighbor is struggling, too. It bothers me the choices people have to make when they are living on a retirement income."

Mills told the group that Sen. Tony Lourey is leading state legislation to change the law about Medical Assistance.

"The law was created because of long-term care," Mills said. "People need to spend down their assets and that's when recovery (liens on property to recover health care costs) happens. One piece didn't fit with how it was originally designed in the law. I've heard from many people that MNsure is so confusing."

Help is available, said Marjori Bottila of the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging.

"There are several programs that we can recommend to help with prescription drug costs," she added. "People just need to call the Senior Linkage Line. They will not get a recording; they will talk to a person.

"The Senior Linkage Line is an information assistance and referral service. We're known mostly for Medicare assistance and assistance with Part D prescription drug coverage.

"You can get assistance over the phone. There are volunteers in Moose Lake where you can learn about Medicare options and can be screened for the different plans. We're here to help people try and find prescription assistance programs. The programs are not just for seniors; they are for anyone of any age."

For veterans, assistance may be available through the VA, said Bottila. She recommended calling the county Veteran's Service Officer.

Bottila also recommended people talk to a pharmacist to find out if there is a lower cost option for their medications.

Call the Senior Linkage Line at (800) 333-2433 to learn more about help with prescription drug programs or help with any issues senior citizens have.

For those who have stories about prescription drug costs to share, send those stories to Sen. Al Franken's office at


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