Congressman Joe Pitts (PA-16) chaired a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee to investigate changes to the Medicare prescription drug program proposed by the Obama administration. The new rules would reduce the number of plans seniors have to choose from and would reduce access to several critical drugs.
"By all accounts, the Medicare prescription drug program is a success," said Pitts. "Nine out of ten seniors are satisfied with their plan, the base monthly premium has only risen 22 cents in nine years, and the cost to the government is roughly half of what was originally predicted. There is no reason to mess with a program that serves seniors so well and is operating under budget."
This morning, the subcommittee questioned Jonathan Blum, Deputy Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Blum defended the administration's new proposed rules, but was evasive when confronted with legal findings contradicting the agency's authority to change regulations without further instruction from Congress.
"Here we have another attempt by the Obama administration to go around the law," said Pitts. "Today's witness failed to demonstrate that they have the authority to make these wrenching changes. The law hasn't changed, and bureaucrats don't get to make it up as they go along."
The changes are opposed by a broad array of organizations including patient groups, pharmacies, and senior organizations.
"There was a great deal of bipartisan concern specifically with the possible changes to classes of protected drugs in the program," said Pitts. "Today, we heard from the AIDS Institute about their concerns that drugs for treatment of the disease and to cope with mental illness would be unavailable to program participants. Reducing access to these critical drugs could be devastating to the health of a number of individuals."