GUEST COMMENTARY: Hoosiers help preserve Medicare Part D

2014-03-29T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Hoosiers help preserve Medicare Part DBy Stephen McCaffrey
March 29, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Despite the well-documented success of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, a rule proposed earlier this year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would have negatively impacted Part D – jeopardizing access to needed medicines and reducing choices for Hoosiers.

Specifically, the changes proposed by CMS included the removal of anti-depressants and antipsychotics from its “protected” status on Part D drug plan formularies, which would be harmful to mental health consumers nationally – including here in Indiana.

On March 10, CMS announced its decision to refrain from moving forward with certain provisions of its proposed regulatory changes to the Medicare Part D program. CMS responded to the efforts of patient advocacy organizations, health care providers and lawmakers voicing their concerns on this important issue. The impact of that decision cannot be overstated.

Access to appropriate mental health medications is critical to treatment and recovery. Individuals with mental health and addictive disorders can recover and maintain healthy, productive lives. To be successful, our medical doctors must have the ability to use all of the tools in their medical arsenal. Mental health medications are a critical component.

Policies that restrict access to medically necessary medications not only fail to achieve their intended purpose of reducing costs, more often for mental health patients, they reduce the potential for an individual to achieve full recovery — thereby increasing long-term costs. As mental health medications are unique medicines, restricting access to these life-changing medications would have both negative human and fiscal consequences.

It’s important to remember that Part D is a government program that works. From a cost perspective, Part D has cost the government far less than predicted. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office says the program’s budget is running 45 percent below its original projections. This is because there is strong competition among health plans to keep costs low.

More important, seniors overwhelmingly approve of Part D. With a 90 percent satisfaction rate among enrollees, Part D is clearly a success story for patients.

On March 7, Mental Health America of Indiana joined 370 organizations across the country to sign a letter urging CMS to withdrawal proposed changes to Medicare Part D. In addition, Indiana congressional leaders Sen. Joe Donnelly and Rep. Andre Carson listened to the voices of Hoosier patient advocates and worked to protect Medicare beneficiaries by signing letters opposing these changes. Together, we were successful in helping our friends, families and loved ones achieve access to medications they need.

The preservation of Medicare Part D will not only continue to improve the quality of life for Hoosiers; it will significantly contribute to the overall health and well being of our state.

Stephen McCaffrey is president of Mental Health America of Indiana. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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