Statement by Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center, on the President’s 2016 Budget
New York, NY—In this 50th anniversary year for the Medicare program, the President’s budget request contains some good news for Medicare beneficiaries and their families. The good news—the budget outlines responsible solutions to slow Medicare spending, suggests a path to accelerate value-based delivery system reforms and names seemingly small, but critically important, legislative fixes to enhance the program. But there is some bad news as well—the President continues to endorse harmful proposals to shift higher health care costs to Medicare beneficiaries, both now and in the future.
We share the President’s deep concern about the rapidly rising cost of high-priced specialty and brand name medications, and we applaud proposals in the budget that would reduce wasteful spending on prescription drugs. We strongly support proposals to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for breakthrough medicines, to restore Medicare’s ability to benefit from the same prescription drug discounts that Medicaid receives, and to accelerate closure of the Part D prescription drug coverage gap (or doughnut hole). These policies represent sensible savings solutions that do no harm to people with Medicare.
We appreciate that the President’s budget expressly commits to hosting the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, and we hope that this venue will provide a forum to advance needed improvements to the Medicare program. Among these are options like that included in the President’s budget to simplify the appeals process for beneficiaries dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. This proposal would alleviate known barriers to accessing needed health care services for low-income beneficiaries unable to navigate the needless complexity of a fragmented appeals system.
Access to an adequate appeals mechanism and other beneficiary protections are a central concern with the President’s new request to implement a program in Medicare Part D to limit provider and pharmacy access for individuals suspected of prescription drug misuse. We urge both Congress and the President to preserve beneficiary access to medically necessary drugs and to adequately engage both the provider and beneficiary community in the design of any such program.
Finally, we remain deeply concerned by proposals that would shift the burden of higher health care costs to low-income and middle class beneficiaries, such as policies to further means test Medicare premiums, add a home health copayment, increase the Medicare Part B deductible, tax supplemental Medigap plans and hike brand name drug copayments for low-income beneficiaries.