AARP and Others Urge Medicare Conferees to Consider Lower-Income Beneficiaries

Dear Conferee:

We thank all the conferees for your ongoing hard work on the Medicare Prescription drug bills (HR 1 and S 1). We know the challenge is great, but we cannot lose this opportunity to add a much-needed comprehensive prescription drug benefit in Medicare. We also know you understand how important your efforts are to the people we represent, and how deeply disappointed they will be if Congress does not succeed in finally fulfilling this long-standing promise this year.

That potential disappointment will, of course, be greatest for low and moderate income Medicare beneficiaries who struggle the most with prescription drug costs. They are least likely to have retiree coverage or private supplemental policies. They are most likely to go without needed medications and thus have poorer health, more avoidable problems, and even face premature death because of unaffordable drug costs.

As part of this comprehensive package, there are three important considerations for lower-income beneficiaries:

– Ensuring extra support for those who now have no assistance with drug costs, which should specifically include:

o Minimal cost-sharing and a cap on total out-of-pocket drug spending;
o Continued coverage throughout any “donut hole;”
o Easy enrollment procedures for eligible beneficiaries; and
o Assistance for beneficiaries who do not meet an asset test.

– Ensuring that those who now receive Medicaid drug coverage are included in the Medicare benefit and that state’s provide “wrap-around” coverage to the Medicare drug benefit as they do with all other Medicare benefits.

– Ensuring that those enrolled in separate state prescription drug assistance programs can continue to receive this extra assistance in a way that is well-coordinated with the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Such provisions would help ensure drug affordability and thus improve the health of millions of our most vulnerable seniors and disabled. We thank you again for your hard work and consideration of these recommendations, and look forward to continuing to work with you as you proceed in fulfilling the promise of access to an affordable drug benefit for all Medicare beneficiaries this year.

Sincerely,

AARP
American Academy of Family Physicians
Families U.S.A.
National Council on the Aging
National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare