OPINION: Pitts in Insurance Newsnet: The Administration’s Proposed Changes to Medicare Part D Mean More Broken Health Care Promises for America’s Seniors

March 5, 2014

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee recently held a hearing to highlight the administration’s proposed changes to the Medicare Part D program and discuss how those changes would lead to more broken health care promises – this time for America’s seniors. The administration’s proposal would undermine the competitive nature of Medicare Part D that has allowed the program to deliver quality and affordable health care choices to seniors for the past decade. Rather than looking to the program’s success as a guide, the administration has proposed to fundamentally upend the program with a proposed rule that could cancel the health care plans of 14 million seniors. Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) explains, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I hope the administration will hear these pleas and withdraw the rules on their own. If not, Congress will act to stop these changes from hurting seniors.”     

March 1, 2014

You Can't Keep Your Perscription Drug Plan Either

By Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)

Last year, President Obama's "If you like it, you can keep it" claim about health insurance was labeled the lie of the year by Politifact. You would think the administration would do everything they can to avoid taking away anymore benefits that American's like and enjoy.

Astonishingly though, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is advancing new rules that would eliminate the current Medicare prescription drug plan for millions of seniors.

The Medicare prescription drug plan was created under the leadership of Congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush in 2003. The program started offering plans to seniors in 2006.

By almost any measure, it is a big success. Nine out of ten seniors are satisfied with their plan. In nine years, the basic premium has only risen 22 cents. In some of the intervening years, the premium actually went down. The cost of the program to the government is 45 percent lower than the Congressional Budget Office projected in 2003. How many other government programs are popular, affordable, and under budget?

So, why is the program coming in so far under budget? The CBO didn't take into account just how well competition and choice would work to keep costs low. The program was designed to offer seniors a variety of plans to choose from. These plans compete for seniors' business by keeping costs low and offering attractive services.

Without any direction from Congress, the administration has undertaken a radical rewrite of the rules governing the program. These rules reduce choices in the program and could also reduce access to critical drugs.

The new rules could reduce the number of plans available to seniors to as few as two per region. Nationally 14 million seniors could lose their current plan. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 100,000 could lose access to their plan.

The rules modify the protected classes of drugs currently included in the program. This could mean certain drugs would be unavailable to all seniors in all plans. AIDS patients and those dealing with mental illness could have fewer options for treatment.

I recently held a hearing at the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee to ask the government official in charge of the rules rewrite why they are trying to mess with success. I found many of his answers to be evasive and the legal justification for the changes highly suspect. …

Read the complete piece online here.