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Although CMS announced this week that the premium Medicare beneficiaries pay for Part D medication coverage will decrease by about a dollar a month next year, an advocacy group continues to point out that the actual cost of prescription medications continues to rise.
On July 19, Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, participated in a Capitol Hill briefing on "Tackling Prescription Drug Prices: An Examination of Proposed Medicare Part D Reforms."
The goal of this educational briefing is to shed light on proposed reforms to Medicare Part D, identify the trade-offs involved, and explore the impacts on Medicare beneficiaries.
In his remarks, Mr. Baker discussed the need to improve the affordability of prescription drugs for people with Medicare, citing data from the 2016 Medicare Rights Helpline Trends Report that show too many older adults and people with disabilities continue to have problems affording coverage and their prescription drugs.
He called on Congress to maintain existing policies that achieve this goal, in particular the provisions of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that close the Medicare Part D donut hole one year earlier and provide beneficiaries in the coverage gap with a higher discount on their prescription drugs. On July 18, Medicare Rights sent a letter (see below) to congressional leaders, urging them to reject efforts that would roll back this progress or otherwise shift costs onto people with Medicare.
Mr. Baker also examined how several recent drug pricing proposals — including moving coverage of certain drugs from Medicare Part B to Part D, loosening Part D formulary standards, and requiring Part D plans to pass through rebates at the point of sale — could impact people with Medicare. The Medicare Rights Center addressed these and other issues in comments responding to the Administration’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs.
Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan, and Leader Pelosi:
On behalf of the Medicare Rights Center, I am writing to affirm our commitment to maintaining the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018’s Part D donut hole reforms that will improve the health and economic security of people with Medicare and their families.
The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives. Our organization provides services and resources to nearly three million people with Medicare, family caregivers, and health care professionals each year.
From our experience assisting people with Medicare, we know that prescription drug affordability is an ongoing challenge. Every day on our National Consumer Helpline, we hear from older adults and people with disabilities who are struggling to cover their drug costs. The BBA of 2018 will help ease this burden by closing the Part D donut hole one year earlier and by providing beneficiaries in the coverage gap with a higher discount on their prescription drugs. This higher discount will allow beneficiaries to move through the donut hole more quickly, lowering their out-of-pocket costs and ensuring they can better access needed care.
We applaud these important reforms, and urge you to reject efforts that would roll back this progress or otherwise shift costs onto beneficiaries. Most people with Medicare simply cannot afford to pay more for health care. In 2016, half of all beneficiaries lived on less than $26,200, and one-quarter had annual incomes below $15,250. 1 Accordingly, any changes to current law must make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible for people with Medicare—not less.
We look forward to working with you to advance and protect policies that achieve these goals. For additional information, please contact Lindsey Copeland, Federal Policy Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-637-0961.
Medicare Rights Center