By Ron Klink
October 5, 2018 at 5:00 am ET
Medicare Part D is undoubtedly one of the most vital health care programs that American seniors rely on to stay healthy, and it is a program which deserves continued support from both sides of the aisle. Recently, lawmakers, health care stakeholders, and patient groups came together to celebrate 15 years of Medicare Part D’s success at the MAPRx Medicare Part D 15th Anniversary Summit.
One of the highlights of the event was the unveiling of MAPRx’s latest report, titled “Gaining Perspective on the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.” Since Medicare Part D was enacted, it has benefited more than 44 million beneficiaries—many of whom have rare or chronic illnesses. As the report highlights, before Medicare Part D, many of these patients did not have access to a health care plan that provided access to the most affordable prescription medications.
The Part D program filled that void and is now essential to providing access to a wide range of enrollment plans and prescription drug options. The report also highlights some of the most important achievements that Part D has had in the past 15 years, including increased plan participation, amplified marketplace competition, and reliable access to care for countless seniors.
While it’s easy to focus on the immense accomplishments of Part D, the report also serves as a critical reminder that we must continue advocating for the future protection and improvement of this program. Specifically, it focuses on the bipartisan actions we must take to address challenges – such as increased costs and restricted access to care – in order to preserve the long-term sustainability of the program.
The “out-of-pocket cliff,” rebates and specialty medication tiers were just some of the issues and challenges that were highlighted in the report, and echoed by the health care policy experts who gave their perspectives at the MAPRx event.
The event also featured a special panel that convened Joel White, Liz Fowler, and Dean Rosen—all leaders in the original legislative push for the creation of Medicare Part D. Fowler, the vice president of global health policy at Johnson & Johnson, stated during the panel that “there were challenges when pushing this legislation through the Senate,” and that although the effort was bipartisan, there was originally some pushback from both parties.
However, Fowler, as well as the other panelists, went on to highlight the importance of maintaining bipartisan support for these initiatives, both back then, and as we move forward to address the challenges facing a program that as Fowler stated “made a huge difference in people’s lives.”
The MAPRx event and report both serve as important reminders to keep Medicare Part D at the forefront of our minds and advocacy efforts. It is critical that we continue to highlight the positive, but equally important that we remain vigilant in examining future congressional action that can be taken to strengthen the Medicare Part D program. This is a program that has benefited millions of vulnerable patients so greatly over the past 15 years, and with bipartisan support in Congress, I know it will continue to help America’s seniors for many years to come.
Ron Klink is a former member of Congress who now serves as a senior policy adviser for Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough.
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