Health

If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It

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This Thursday, September 28th, at 3:00 pm ET, we’ll have a Facebook live event to discuss our yearly Medicare Part D prescription drug program satisfaction survey. We’ve been doing this survey a long time, at least 14 years, so we have a rather good idea about how seniors feel about this public/private partnership that works. The results have remained extremely favorable and consistent. Over the years, the percentage of those who have a favorable view of Part D has consistently hovered around 90%. Now I haven’t researched all the surveys of government programs, but I would be extremely surprised to find one that, year after year, has a 90% favorability rating. It is important to remind ourselves that this program serves over 50 million people and has worked extremely well for 17 years, and yet our elected officials in Washington have passed legislation that fundamentally changes how Part D works.

So, why did our lawmakers decide to change this popular program? Was it due to everyone’s displeasure with the program? According to Washington, drug prices were too high, it was limiting access to people who couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket costs of their prescriptions. They also said that most older Americans agreed with them, that it was one of the few things that had bipartisan agreement. If most seniors agreed with them that drug prices were too high, how come our survey showed that 86% said that their plan provided good value and their monthly premiums are affordable, or that 80% said their out-of-pocket costs are reasonable? Maybe everyone is concerned with the 20% in our survey who didn’t think their out-of-pocket costs were reasonable and were possibly the ones that couldn’t afford their medicine—and these are absolutely the people we should be concerned for. This begs the question, is fixing the price of drugs and slowing the discovery of new drugs, which affects everyone, the way to solve the problem of the 20% who’s access is limited due to cost? The really sad part is that there isn’t any guarantee that the new law will really help the 20% who can’t afford their medicine. I wonder if the new law would be as popular if the keywords in promoting the legislation were government price fixing rather than negotiations? Multiple polls show a huge drop in popularity when it is revealed that there really aren’t any negotiations and that the new law will slow the discovery of new medicines.

The idea that this approach to lowering drug prices was a bipartisan issue flies in the face of the fact that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was absolutely a partisan bill, not one Republican voted for it. Now you might say that the Republicans were against other things in the bill, and that would be absolutely accurate. This again begs the question, why did the Democrats decide to include it in the IRA, which they knew would be a partisan piece of legislation, rather than passing it as a victorious bipartisan stand-alone law? Was it only because they needed the projected savings (which the Congressional Budget Office has said may not materialize) to pay for other parts of the IRA? If that’s the case, why aren’t those savings going directly to the 20%, or anyone, who would still need help paying for their medicine? These are the questions that cause me to think we might have been sold a bill of goods, a political point getter, rather than a real long-term solution.

As you can see, I get riled up when our lawmakers seek to change something that’s working. I’m especially angered that our lawmakers went ahead and made some basic changes to a highly successful program even though, once again, our poll showed that Part D is working. We take this poll every year to level set us as to where seniors stand on this life changing, life saving program. We genuinely want to get your opinion. Prescription drugs have a huge positive impact on our lives; they play a part in everyone’s life, whether directly or indirectly.

Every year we do a Facebook live event to discuss the results of the most recent poll. We try to focus on what the numbers really tell us about how you perceive your Medicare prescription drug program. It is a great opportunity for you to see what is really important to older Americans. The survey has always been a great way for seniors to speak out. We use the survey as a way to educate lawmakers about how you feel about Part D and how important it is to you. It’s a resource you can use as you communicate with your state and federal lawmakers. I talked about the survey when I talked with the staff of my representative in the House. I will refer to it again if I get to meet with the Congressman in October. Input from constituents is always important to our elected officials. This survey is a valuable tool.

You can tune in to our Facebook live event this Thursday, September 28th, at 3:00 pm ET. Matt Monday from Morning Consult and I will discuss this year’s survey highlights and how seniors feel about their Medicare Part D plans and their concerns regarding the IRA’s price-setting provisions. Click here for more information and mark yourself as “going” on the event page. I hope you can join us.

Best, Thair

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