NAMI Texas sent a letter to the Honorable Jeb Hensarling regarding our concerns about possible cuts to Medicare Part D by the “Super Committee”. We worked with NAMI National to develop the letter you see below:
Dear Congressman Hensarling:
On behalf of NAMI Texas, we are writing to you in your capacity as Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. NAMI Texas and our coalition partners across the state that advocate for Medicare beneficiaries, patient advocates, family caregivers and health professional organizations are committed to improving access to prescription medications and safeguarding the well-being of beneficiaries with chronic diseases and disabilities under the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Part D).
On behalf of the thousands of Texans eligible for Medicare that are living with chronic conditions and rely on Part D for essential medications, we urge you and fellow members of the joint deficit panel, or “supercommittee,” to protect the Part D program as you examine ways to reduce federal spending. We are cognizant of the fiscal situation facing the nation. Furthermore, we recognize the enormity of the challenge the Committee faces. However, we are concerned that, in the effort to find savings in the Medicare program, Part D beneficiaries will be negatively impacted both financially and in terms of health outcomes. Proposals such as increasing Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing, raising coinsurance and freezing income thresholds have the potential to affect Part D beneficiaries in these ways.
When looking at federal spending to find greater efficiencies and areas to reduce spending, we ask that you keep this in mind when looking at Part D: it has been and continues to be extremely successful. The program has provided a lifeline to millions of beneficiaries by providing them with access to prescription drugs that were previously unaffordable. This, in turn, has improved health outcomes, which ultimately saves money in other parts of Medicare by reducing doctor and hospital visits, preventing acute illness, and avoiding other costly health problems. Finally, the Part D program has proven to cost far less than projected.
All of these factors amply demonstrate that Part D is working well – for beneficiaries and the federal government. Imposing policies that place greater financial burdens on beneficiaries has the potential to undermine much of this success. As noted in a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, half of the total Medicare population has an income below twice the federal poverty level – $22,000 for an individual – and “even those with higher incomes often struggle to make ends meet.” Even with the benefits of Part D, many still struggle to afford needed prescription drugs.
Increasing cost-sharing or raising co-insurance may cause many – particularly those with chronic conditions that require high-cost drugs or biologics – to face severe financial hardship and/or forego necessary treatment, which will ultimately drive up costs in other parts of the Medicare program. We ask that you carefully consider the impact on beneficiaries of any changes to the Part D program. As additional people enter the Medicare program over time, Part D will become even more essential in maintaining health and reducing costs. Making significant changes that create obstacles to beneficiaries’ access to prescription drugs will render the program less effective. This would be unfortunate – and unnecessary – for the Medicare population, the entire Medicare program, and the entire nation. NAMI Texas urges you and your colleagues on the Joint Committee to resist proposals to erode beneficiary protections in Part D that ensure broad and accessible prescription drug formularies.
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