Op-Ed: Standing Up For Seniors
Americans receive some of the best health care in the world, when they can access it. But too often, cost prohibits people from getting adequate insurance and seeking care when they need it. Older Americans - who live on fixed incomes and often have significant medical needs - are particularly vulnerable to these rising costs. For 44 years, Medicare has provided our seniors with access to affordable, quality care, and I wanted to give you an update on some of the things I'm working on to keep the program strong for generations to come.
One of the areas I'm focusing on is improving the Medicare Part D program to help seniors save money on their prescriptions.
For example, a legislative loophole is currently allowing insurance companies to unfairly shift the cost of essential medications onto vulnerable seniors. According to a report by non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), seniors are being charged exorbitant amounts (up to 40% of the cost) for expensive, medically-necessary prescription drugs, which often have no lower-cost alternative.
So I re-introduced the Medicare Prescription Drug Cost Equalization Act earlier this year to restore fairness to the Medicare Part D Program and bring seniors some relief. Specifically, the bill allows those who can prove a prescription drug is medically-necessary and has no lower-cost alternative to pay the lower co-pays typically charged for other generic and brand-name drugs.
Another way we can save seniors money is by closing the so-called donut hole, a gap in Part D prescription drug coverage that requires many seniors to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for medications. The KFF estimated 3.4 million Americans fell into the donut hole in 2007 and 15% of those who did stopped taking their prescription drugs as a result.
All of the five health care reform proposals in Congress make significant progress in closing the donut hole and reducing out-of-pocket expenses for seniors. This is smart policy that will ensure seniors have access to affordable prescription drugs, and it should be included in health care reform.
Seniors who are battling chronic diseases face a number of challenges; accessing potentially life-saving medications shouldn't be one of them. Unfortunately, current policies say only those who can afford to pay deserve to be treated. I think our seniors deserve better, and I will continue working to ensure all of America's seniors have access to quality, affordable health care.
P.S. If you or someone you know needs assistance in resolving an issue with Medicare, please don't hesitate to contact me at the numbers below. My office can provide 8th District seniors with information and assistance on the Medicare prescription drug benefit, Medicare eligibility, coverage and the status of reimbursement disputes.