One of the core functions of Medicare is to provide access to healthcare and prescription drugs for seniors who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Ten years ago Congress voted to expand the subsidization of these services through billions of dollars in funding, which has proven to deliver medications to more than 35 million new patients. This sounds like a good story, but recently examined public records show another danger lurking beneath the surface. The Medicare program, called Plan D, has failed to regulate the distribution of prescription drugs to elderly patients, resulting in questionable practices by doctors.
Many doctors are prescribing dangerous drugs to seniors despite strong warnings. These include an anti psychotic intended to treat dementia, which has been labeled with the government’s most serious “black box” warning due to the increased likelihood of death; and a muscle relaxant called Soma which is on the American Geriatric Society’s list of drugs that seniors should avoid. Medicare claims that they do not have the authority to regulate the prescriptions that doctors write to patients, and that this responsibility falls on the health care plans. However, these insurance plans do not have access to a full picture of the patient’s drug intake – only Medicare does.
Research shows that physicians often do not stay up to date on the most recent drug news and warnings, and many even run prescription “mills” handing out drugs to any patient who pays cash for their visit. Doctors who have been suspended or removed completely from state Medicaid programs due to their unethical prescription practices are still allowed to write prescriptions under the Medicare program, undermining any regulations that have been put in to place. The prescription drugs handed out are often highly addictive painkillers, anti psychotics or other medications known to create lasting problems in users.
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