It’s budget season in Washington, D.C., and it seems like nearly everything is on the table as lawmakers discuss how to tackle the federal deficit. In particular, some legislators are considering proposals that would make big changes to the Medicare prescription drug program, Part D, that could raise out-of-pocket costs and potentially reduce the choices of prescription medicines available to beneficiaries.
If you aren’t familiar with Part D, here’s what you need to know: Part D is Medicare’s prescription drug program, which helps over 31 million seniors afford the medicines they need to maintain their health. First implemented in 2006, it’s one of the rare government programs that’s coming in under budget while exceeding expectations. Not only is Part D costing $334 billion (or 43%) less than originally estimated, 90% of seniors say they’re happy with the coverage they receive–and 3 in 5 beneficiaries say they would not be able to afford their medications without Part D.
However, some proposals would place new taxes, or “rebates,” on drug manufacturers in the Part D program. This could raise premiums by as much as 40%, an estimated increase in out-of-pocket costs for all Medicare beneficiaries of $1.5 billion to $3.7 billion. Applying rebates threatens to turn Medicare Part D into a Medicaid-style program, potentially resulting in barriers to access and restricting seniors’ choice of medicines.
Part D works. Any changes or cuts that would make medicines raise costs and reduce choices for seniors must be avoided if the program is to remain successful and continue to provide seniors with affordable access to prescription drugs. For more information please visit our website or follow us on Twitter for the latest information on what you can do to help protect Part D.