State drug program's a boon for seniors

My father always said, "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

But I believe my long-deceased dad would have totally embraced the opportunity I'm about to present to you. I suspect he would have taken full advantage of the benefits and then touted his decision to become involved as if the entire concept was his own idea.

First, let me tell you a story about dad. He was a World War II veteran. He and his squadron parachuted beyond enemy lines as part of an elite Norwegian paratrooper group. The parachute jumps and the overall situation (the enemy purportedly placed ground glass in their rations during one jump) made for fascinating stories (and ongoing stomach problems throughout his life.)

Dad ("the pioneer" is my brother's term) had an innovative spirit and an ever-eagle eye for a bargain. He lived a good life, but throughout it he was plagued with chronic health problems and the need for prescription medications. There were pills for aches and pains, drugs for heart problems and insulin for diabetes. There were drops for his eyes, salve for his skin and little white tablets for indigestion. The table next to his recliner looked like a pharmacy.

My mom and dad had good medical coverage, except for prescription drugs. For reasons I will never understand, their insurance paid for hospitalizations, but very few pharmaceuticals. For my parents, drug costs ranked up there with food costs.

If he were alive today I'd have already told my father about the new Oregon Prescription Drug Program (OPDP) "medicines-made-easy" approach, sponsored by AARP. He would be enrolled (short, easy, no-cost-to-join application) and would have prompted his cronies to join.

The benefits would mean, even on Part D of Medicare, with some of his prescription drug costs (finally) covered as he dropped into the "donut hole" (that point in which your annual drug costs over-reach available coverage and you have no coverage at all for a while) he and mom could really stop worrying about medication costs.

The OPDP opportunity exists for all of us because of the overwhelming passage of Measure 44 in last November's election. It works off the bulk purchasing model (the more people join, the more savings possible). There are no income or waiting period restrictions and it's open to people of all ages. It's a just plain, great opportunity. I'm having a hard time figuring out why there's not more buzz about it. Create one if you will.

If he were still alive, at this point in my column I would have inserted a quote from my father, who absolutely loved any kind of limelight. In his Norwegian accent he might have said something personal about the OPDP reducing his prescription drug costs significantly or used the term "simple and smart" to describe the idea. He would also probably have convinced me to include a story from his parachuting past. Worth listening to — all of it.

It's the Oregon Prescription Drug Program and it's incredibly easy to join. Call 1-800-913-4146 or visit Simple and smart.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension Service. She can be reached at

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