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October 16, 2019

Frank Pallone
Chairman
Energy and Commerce Committee
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Greg Walden
Ranking Member
Energy and Commerce Committee
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

 

 

 

 

Re: Support for H.R. 3 and Reinvestment of Savings in Medicare Program

Dear Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member Walden,

The Center for Medicare Advocacy (the Center) writes in support of H.R. 3, the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act”, and, in particular, Title IV, which would reinvest savings back into the Medicare program, as discussed below.

The Center, founded in 1986, is a national, non-partisan education and advocacy organization that works to ensure fair access to Medicare and to quality healthcare. At the Center, we educate older people and people with disabilities to help secure fair access to necessary health care services. We draw on our direct experience with thousands of individuals to educate policy makers about how their decisions affect the lives of real people. Additionally, we provide legal representation to ensure that people receive the health care benefits to which they are legally entitled, and to the quality health care they need.

Support for H.R. 3: “Lowering Drug Costs Now Act

For too long, our country has struggled with rising drug costs that put needed medications out of financial reach for too many.  H.R. 3 will significantly lower prescription drug costs, most importantly, by empowering the federal government to directly negotiate drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries and other purchasers.  This will go a long way toward bringing drug prices down, saving money for both the government and individuals.

We strongly support Title II’s establishment of an annual out-of-pocket cap to Part D drug costs. This added protection from high prescription drug costs would be a significant improvement for beneficiaries, particularly those with chronic conditions, many of whom take multiple medications.

Support for Title IV – Reinvesting Savings into Medicare

We also strongly support the goal of Title IV of the bill – reinvesting savings from lower drug costs back into the Medicare program.  We strongly support the amendments to Title IV (Sections 401 to 407) that would improve and expand the Part D low-income subsidy (LIS).

Medicare Improvements

We strongly support adding dental, hearing and vision coverage to Part B in Medicare, as well as strengthening the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs).  We therefore offer support for the bills being marked up in conjunction with H.R. 3, with the following suggested improvements.

H.R. 4650, the “Medicare Dental Act” would be an important step toward providing comprehensive oral health coverage for all Medicare beneficiaries.  It is critical to include such coverage in Part B, as the bill would do.  We urge the committee to amend the bill, however, to align beneficiary coinsurance with all other services covered under Part B.  Similarly, H.R. 4665, the “Medicare Vision Act” and H.R. 4618, the Medicare Hearing Act,” would add important items and services currently unavailable to the majority of Medicare beneficiaries.  We urge the Committee to also explore adding coverage for low-vision devices. In addition, H.R. 4671, the “Helping Seniors Afford Health Care Act,” would be an essential first step towards increasing the income eligibility levels for individuals who receive financial assistance through Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs).

In addition to the specific Medicare improvements contained in the bills being marked up in conjunction with H.R. 3, we urge the Committee to consider exploring additional improvements to the Medicare program more broadly, as discussed in the Center’s Medicare Platform,[1] and Part D improvements more specifically, as the Center has previously outlined.[2]  This includes, to the extent possible, further expanding the LIS and MSP protections proposed in Section 404 of H.R. 3 and H.R. 4671, respectively.

We applaud the Committee for addressing both high prescription drug costs and filling some of the gaps in Medicare coverage.  For additional information, please contact David Lipschutz, Senior Policy Attorney, dlipschutz@medicareadvocacy.org, or Kata Kertesz, Policy Attorney, kkertesz@MedicareAdvocacy.org, both at 202-293-5760.

Sincerely,

Judith A. Stein
Executive Director /Attorney

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[1] See., e.g., the Center’s “Medicare Platform” to improve the Medicare program for all beneficiaries at: https://www.medicareadvocacy.org/core-considerations-for-medicare-for-today-tomorrow-a-medicare-platform-for-the-new-congress/.
[2] See, e.g., joint letter re: Part D improvements to Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means Committees by Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging, Medicare Rights Center, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and National Council on Aging (Sept. 10, 2019), available at: https://www.medicareadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Joint-Letter-on-Part-D-Reforms-9.10.19.pdf; also see Center’s letter to the Committees re: Part D improvements (June 6, 2019), available at: https://www.medicareadvocacy.org/center-comments-on-part-d-improvements/.

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