by Andrew Mangione – AMAC was one of many stakeholders that successfully fought to protect the Medicare Part D prescription drug program and to uphold choice for the 39 million mature Americans and seniors participating in this important health care program.
AMAC is very pleased to report that the Obama administration has retreated from a proposal that would impose harmful regulations on the Medicare Part D program. This proposal – issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in January 2014 – would have gravely threatened seniors’ access to certain medications and would have fundamentally undermined the free market principles that have contributed to the overwhelming success and popularity of the Part D program. For AMAC and the beneficiaries of Part D, the decision to rescind this proposal is a significant victory that will ensure the continuation of this tangible benefit for seniors!
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, CMS has agreed to shelve the proposed regulations after encountering a fury of opposition from lawmakers and more than 200 stakeholders – including AMAC. Claiming these regulations would “simplify” the program for older Americans and would generate program savings over time, CMS pushed to unnecessarily expand the government’s role in the Medicare Part D program – despite 90% of beneficiaries reporting satisfaction with their plans. CMS’ attempt to wield more power over Part D signifies the administration’s desire to weaken the public-private relationship between drug manufacturers and health plan sponsors and to strategically exert more control over a market-based program that functions efficiently and effectively.
Like many mature Americans and seniors, AMAC recognizes the value of the Medicare Part D program in its current structure and vehemently opposes any rule that would limit choice or restrict access to the vital medications seniors need. In fact, AMAC believes that had CMS chosen to proceed with their proposal, consumers’ abilities to select coverage that best suits their individual health needs would have been seriously impeded and competition and choice egregiously eroded. As a market-based program, Part D is able to keep premiums low and beneficiaries satisfied by fostering competition amongst drug manufacturers, establishing strategic relationships with retailers and offering many classes of low-cost generic medications.
To express our thoughts regarding CMS’ proposal, AMAC delivered letters of concern to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and to Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. The Subcommittee worked promptly and aggressively to address this critical issue in a February hearing entitled, “Messing With Success: How CMS’ Attack on the Part D Program Will Increase Costs and Reduce Choices for Seniors.” AMAC’s letter – which was submitted to the Congressional Record – validates that our time meeting with legislators and key Subcommittee members and their staff is indeed time well spent. In addition, AMAC recently supported Representative Renee Ellmers’ legislation, the “Keep the Promise to Seniors Act,” (H.R. 4160), which would have blocked CMS’ prescription drug provisions so that seniors could maintain access to their Part D plans. AMAC has been vigilant as well as vocal regarding our members’ concern about any changes to Part D, and it is truly satisfying that our efforts helped to secure this victory, one that belongs to AMAC’s membership.
Today, AMAC applauds CMS for thoughtfully considering the myriad concerns of lawmakers, stakeholders, and older Americans. Administrator Tavenner has promised to “‘engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in future years.’” AMAC remains committed to holding CMS accountable for this promise and to ensure that seniors maintain access to the Part D plans they like and prefer.
AMAC is proud to be on the record fighting to preempt and prevent the central planning efforts of the Federal government on behalf of our 1.1 million members. Though at first glance the administration’s decision to withdraw their proposal may appear to be relatively insignificant, AMAC recognizes that the outcome of CMS’ regulations would have been catastrophic for seniors participating in Part D. As the fastest-growing conservative seniors organization in the country, AMAC played a critical role in opposing CMS’ regulations, and this victory is a direct result of AMAC’s action in Washington, D.C.
 Dooren, Jennifer Corbett. “Proposed Medicare Part D Drug Changes Are Scrapped.” Wall Street Journal. March 10, 2014. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304020104579431481762216704?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304020104579431481762216704.html.