Lawmakers are gearing up to undermine Medicare’s prescription drug benefit — a move that could devastate some 2.7 million Florida seniors who depend on the program to help pay for vital medications.
Instead of private insurers handling price negotiations with drug companies and using the discounts they negotiate to offer plans with the lowest prices and best benefits to attract enrollees, recent proposals would require the government to interfere with prices for medicines covered by Part D.
When Part D was enacted in 2003, the Congressional Budget Office projected 10-year costs for the program. By 2014, total program costs were about $349 billion below that original estimate for 2004-2013. Also, a Healthcare Leadership Council survey found that 85 percent of Part D beneficiaries consider their plan to be a good value.
Despite these successes, Congress wants to tamper with Part D’s structure. Part D currently has a clause prohibiting the government from interfering with drug prices. But many want to remove that clause due to the mistaken belief that the government could control costs better than private insurers.
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In addition to decreasing funding that enables future drug discoveries, treatments, and cures, government interference in Part D pricing would restrict access to medicines available to today’s seniors and disabled individuals who rely on Part D.
Patients who receive care through the Department of Veterans Affairs have witnessed the impact of price controls on access to medicines firsthand. The artificially low prices seen in the VA system are the result of a restrictive formulary, resulting in veterans having access to fewer medicines relative to Part D plans.
Part D is a rare public insurance success story. The program doesn’t need to be changed; it needs to be preserved.
René Rodriguez, president and founder, Salud USA, Miami