By Wendy Owens
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
What if there was a government program that helps millions of Americans maintain their health and quality of life? What if this same program comes in under its annual budget year after year? What if the vast majority of beneficiaries in this program say the program works well for them? Shouldn’t this program be the exemplar for best practices and not one threatened by devastating budget cuts?
Since its inception in 2006, Medicare Part D consistently comes in under its annual budget and does so while positively impacting its beneficiaries’ lives. A recent survey of Medicare Part D participants found that 95% think the system is working well. Yet, despite its fiscal and programmatic successes, Medicare Part D is at risk of suffering severe budget reductions as part of mandatory cuts that will go into effect in early 2013.
As an advocate for affordable healthcare and prescription drugs, I’ve seen how access to proper healthcare helps people stay healthy. Study after study shows that when barriers to healthcare are eliminated, people stay on doctor prescribed healthcare and medication regimens. Adherence to these regimes means healthier people and this means lower healthcare cost for everyone.
Medicare Part D has provided a lifeline to millions of beneficiaries. The personal result is improved health outcomes for America’s seniors. The financial result is overall Medicare savings through reduced doctor and hospital visits, prevention of acute illness, and avoidance of other costly health issues. The potential results of mandatory budget cuts to Medicare Part D are reduced options for treatment and medications, considerably increased out-of-pocket costs, and the suffering of Part D beneficiaries who can no longer afford the healthcare they need.
Beneficiaries of Medicare Part D are living healthy, productive lives while continuing to make significant contributions to the economy and the lives of family and loved ones. Proposals such as increasing their out-of-pocket cost-sharing, raising coinsurance rates, and freezing income thresholds threaten to put basic healthcare out of reach for many Part D beneficiaries. The resulting reduction in quality of life, health outcomes, and financial security will be devastating not only for Medicare beneficiaries but for the entire country.
On behalf of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries in New England with chronic and life threatening conditions who rely on Part D for vital medications, I urge Representative Michael Capuano and his fellow Members of Congress to continue to protect the Part D program as they examine ways to reduce federal spending.
As the election season heats up, the partisan rhetoric around programs like Medicare Part D will certainly continue. Biased politics should not shape the healthcare of seniors and threaten the budget of a program that actually works. Washington needs to listen to Americans who want to maintain programs like Medicare Part D. This is what is best for the health of our seniors and our investment in them is what is best for our country.
Wendy Owens is the Executive Coordinator for New England Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs, an initiative of the New England Hemophilia Association.