LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Is this really Delaware’s idea of ‘shared sacrifice’?

In the Great Budget Reset of 2017, the legislature and the administration of our state made two decisions. One was to end the estate tax, protecting inherited wealth, and the other was to end the state prescription assistance program which aided low-income seniors and disabled Delawareans with drug costs.

The justification for eliminating the estate tax was that it didn’t really raise that much revenue for the state — $9 million one year, $1.3 million another. As for the state prescription assistance program, the governor and his supporters argued that it wasn’t really necessary for recipients — they could get discounts and rebates for their drugs from drug makers and cutting the program would save the state about $2 million a year.

Now, as of Aug. 31, around 3,500 people in our state have lost help with their drug costs. The program paid their drug coverage premiums and deductibles, helped with copays and coinsurances, and chipped in if they went into the infamous donut hole, during which the beneficiary pays more out of pocket for drugs.

For the remaining months of 2017 and beyond, these folks have to find the money to pay their premiums and deductibles in addition to copays and coinsurances. The governor and our legislators said that would represent no real problem for these citizens. Just get a rebate or a discount from the drug company.

Most drugs don’t have rebates or discounts available. You will need to go through your drug list, identify the manufacturers of each drug, search the website of each manufacturer to find if any assistance is available for your specific drug, and then make separate applications for every drug for which an assistance program exists. The eligibility rules and the application process will be different for every rebate and discount program. Furthermore, no drugmaker will provide premium and deductible assistance.

The state prescription assistance program filled a real need. The people using it were living on an income between a bit more than $16,000 to $24,000 a year in 2017. That amount makes them ineligible for federal assistance with drug plan premiums, deductibles, and copays. The people benefiting from this program are the elderly and the disabled. They’re not users or abusers of the system. They’ve worked, paid taxes, raised families. Now, in their time of need, why are they being required to “share the pain” of the budget reset?

For the former estate tax to kick in, you had to have at least $5.49 million in inherited wealth. The legislature voted to protect wealthy families when our representatives and senators voted to abolish the estate tax. When they voted to cut the state drug assistance program, they showed a deep unconcern for the beneficiaries and their families.

The governor’s budget recommendations claims the people losing state prescription assistance would be able to substitute rebates and discounts from for-profit drugmakers, but the state has no plans take sure that actually happens. The people who are being cut off are effectively being abandoned.

The inheritance tax was attacked as a “death tax”. But levying a tax on inherited wealth of more than $5.49 million wouldn’t kill anyone. Cutting off financial assistance for life-saving drugs really can hasten people’s deaths. Some children will get to inherit their parents’ and grandparents’ wealth without being taxed by the state; other children will have to watch their parents and grandparents struggle to pay for their insulin and inhalers.

Deb Schultz

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