Making Medicare Drug Coverage Work

As those who follow the issue know, there was a great deal of activity in the first quarter of this year regarding the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed changes to Part D that, in the opinion of the Healthcare Leadership Council and many other organizations, would have significantly altered a program that has been extraordinarily successful in making prescription medicines affordable for millions of beneficiaries.

The reassuring aspect of this episode is that the system worked as it should.  Serious concerns were raised about the proposed regulations when they were made public, and the administration listened.  CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner made the decision that the agency would not pursue action this year on some of the more objectionable and controversial aspects of the proposed rule while still moving forward on less problematic improvements.

A side benefit of this episode is that it catalyzed discussion and improved public understanding regarding the Part D program.  On that note, I want to call attention to an online forum created by the organization Center Forward, which is dedicated to moving beyond partisan conflicts and finding common ground solutions for the nation’s major challenges.  Center Forward has published a set of opinion pieces on the issue of changes to Medicare Part D.  I was honored to be asked to participate in this online discussion, along with representatives of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the Lupus Foundation of America and the National Community Pharmacists Association.

I urge you to check out the Center Forward forum.  It’s a multi-faceted discussion on both the pharmaceutical access aspects of Medicare Part D and how they impact patient health, but also how the structure of the program affects pricing and affordability.  As we strive to maintain Part D’s efficacy and high approval ratings, we need more interactions like this one.