A guest post from Ro Foege, former state representative and AARP executive council member.
The Iowa Caucuses are just around the corner, and presidential candidates will be flocking to the Hawkeye State in droves over the coming months, touting their voting record and stances on the issues, including healthcare. When it comes to prescription drug costs, opinions are abundantly clear across the U.S. – everyday Americans are being charged outrageous prices. Nobody should have to choose between buying food for their loved ones and paying for prescription drugs they need to keep themselves well. However, it is the reality that too many seniors are currently facing.
Earlier this year, Congress passed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA), giving needed relief to seniors and taxpayers from out-of-control drug prices. Any efforts from the pharmaceutical industry to rollback these reforms must be stymied in order to stave off higher healthcare costs. Our U.S. Senators from Iowa, as well as any U.S. Senator visiting the state as they consider running for President, need to denounce any efforts to reverse Medicare changes and go on the record that they will preserve the actions taken by Congress in the BBA.
Nearly 11 million seniors enter the Part D donut hole every year. Of those, three million exit the donut hole and reach catastrophic coverage. The average Medicare Part D enrollee takes 4.5 medications a month and the median yearly income of Medicare beneficiaries is less than $26,200. In 2015, Medicare Part D beneficiaries spent nearly $27 billion in out-of-pocket RX costs.
The new Part D deal increases the discounts that brand-name drug companies have to provide when a senior is in the doughnut hole from 50 percent to 70 percent. Starting in 2019, when a senior enters the doughnut hole they will pay 25 percent of the cost of their brand-name drugs until they reach catastrophic coverage where their costs go down to five percent. As a result, Medicare beneficiaries will save $6.7 billion between 2020 and 2027. In 2019 alone, beneficiaries are expected to save $1.3 billion. Moreover, the federal government is expected to save nearly $12 billion over the next decade, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.
Changes made through the BBA represent progress in lowering the overall costs of prescription drugs and must be upheld. With the legislative lame-duck session commencing this week in Washington, D.C., 16 groups, including AARP, are urging congressional leaders to reject a drug industry-sought change to the Medicare Part D program. It is our expectation that our U.S. Senators in Iowa, and any U.S. Senator seeking to run for President in 2020, will do the same.
by Ro Foege
Executive Council Member, AARP Iowa
Former Iowa State Representative (IA-29)