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A Wise Withdrawal on Altering Medicare Part D

May 21, 2015
11:50 am

This morning, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously – a rare event in these fractious political times – to send its 21st Century Cures legislation to the full House.  Progress for this measure, which will accelerate the development and delivery of new treatments and therapies while also making advances in healthcare data access and interoperability, is good news for patients and the healthcare system.

An interesting and positive development in the Energy and Commerce markup actually concerns something that didn’t happen.

One of the amendments scheduled for consideration this morning would have fundamentally changed the Medicare Part D prescription drug program by empowering the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices, a responsibility now being handled by private sector health plans and pharmacy benefit management firms.

This is a status quo that isn’t begging to be repaired.  Just the opposite, in fact.  These private sector pricing negotiations have yielded a Part D program that has maintained beneficiary monthly premiums at a stable, affordable level for the past five years.  All the rhetoric in the world doesn’t change the fundamental truth that millions of seniors and beneficiaries with disabilities have affordable access to medication because of the way the Part D program is structured.

The drug pricing amendment was withdrawn before coming to a vote.  Medicare Part D stays on a path that has consistently won approval ratings of greater than 80 percent among Americans 65 and older.

Some efforts withdraw, as the saying goes, so they can live to fight another day.

Ill-conceived ideas like this one, though, should just call it a day and stay permanently out of the way of Medicare beneficiaries and the medicines they need.

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