TAMPA, Fla. — For nearly two hours, Rep. Kathy Castor fielded questions and concerns from members of her district, each affected in some way by rising healthcare costs.
- Attendess included medical staff, pharmacists, patients
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"They're also pushing to cap under Medicare Part D the out-of-pocket expenses," said one elderly man.
"Each shot would be $150 each," said another woman, referring to medical treatment her mother needs.
The roundtable, held at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County Friday morning, confirmed what Castor already knew. But she insisted the input from her constituents was necessary.
Castor, a Democrat, represents Florida's 14th District. It covers Tampa and parts of Hillsborough County.
"Families across the Tampa Bay area are struggling with high healthcare costs and the costs of prescription drugs," Castor said. "There's nothing like hearing from pharmacists, from AARP, from neighbors."
The group of attendees was comprised of medical staff, pharmacists and patients like Derrick Pierce, a cancer survivor. Pierce has a rare soft tissue cancer that led to the amputation of his arm. Prior to getting diagnosed, he was unfamiliar with a lot of the information discussed at the roundtable, even though he worked in the medical field.
"I found that the information for health services is lacking," Pierce said. "And I used to be a registered nurse and I just found it hard to navigate."
Sylvia Alvarez, an advocate for the Hispanic Organization Unidos US was surprised to learn how much prescription drugs and equipment different in costs from country to country. Her husband got sick overseas and got a medical device for 68 cents. That same equipment cost $200 in the U.S.
"How can you go from 68 cents to 200 dollars?" asked Alvarez, shaking her head. "It worked fine. There was nothing wrong with it. There has to be a lot of reform."
Castor says she plans to take the insight she received from the roundtable discussion back to Washington and refer to it when she is working on health care legislation. She also plans to support a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers for lower prescription drug costs.