Collins, Snowe must protect program that helps defray costs of prescription drugs

By Wendy Owens, Special to the BDN
Posted Sept. 18, 2012, at 2:58 p.m.

What if there was a government program that helps millions of Americans maintain their health and quality of life? What if this same program comes in under its annual budget year after year? What if the vast majority of beneficiaries in this program say the program works well for them? Shouldn’t this program be the exemplar for best practices and not one threatened by devastating budget cuts?

Since its inception in 2006, Medicare Part D, the federal program that helps defray the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare patients, consistently comes in under its annual budget and does so while positively impacting its beneficiaries’ lives. A recent survey of Medicare Part D participants found that 95 percent think the system is working well. Yet, despite its fiscal and programmatic successes, Medicare Part D is at risk of severe budget reductions as part of mandatory cuts that will go into effect in early 2013.

As an advocate for affordable healthcare and prescription drugs, I’ve seen how access to proper health care helps people stay healthy. Study after study shows that when barriers to health care are eliminated, people stay on doctor prescribed health care and medication regimens. Adherence to these regimens means healthier people, and this means lower health care costs for everyone.

Medicare Part D has provided a lifeline to millions of beneficiaries. The personal result is improved health outcomes for America’s seniors. The financial result is overall Medicare savings through reduced doctor and hospital visits, prevention of acute illness and avoidance of other costly health issues. The potential results of mandatory budget cuts to Medicare Part D are reduced options for treatment and medications, considerably increased out-of-pocket costs and the suffering of Part D beneficiaries who can no longer afford the healthcare they need.

Beneficiaries are living healthy, productive lives, while continuing to make significant contributions to the economy and the lives of family and loved ones. Proposals such as increasing their out-of-pocket cost-sharing, raising coinsurance rates and freezing income thresholds threaten to put basic health care out of reach for many Part D beneficiaries. The resulting reduction in quality of life, health outcomes and financial security will be devastating not only for Medicare beneficiaries but for the entire country.

On behalf of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries in New England with chronic and life-threatening conditions who rely on Part D for vital medications, I urge Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and their fellow members of Congress to continue to protect the Part D program as they examine ways to reduce federal spending.

As the election season heats up, the partisan rhetoric around programs like Medicare Part D will certainly continue. Biased politics should not shape the health care of seniors and threaten the budget of a program that actually works. Washington needs to listen to Americans who want to maintain programs like Medicare Part D. This is what is best for the health of our seniors and our investment in them is what is best for our country.

Wendy Owens is the executive coordinator for New England Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs, an initiative of the New England Hemophilia Association.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/09/18/opinion/contributors/collins-snowe-must-protect-program-that-helps-defray-costs-of-prescription-drugs/ printed on October 1, 2014