NHeLP Letter in Support of Doggett Medicare Bills

Executive Summary

This letter supports two bills proposed by Rep. Lloyd Dogget that would improve access to Medicare Part D benefits for low income beneficiaries, allow HHS to negotiate drug prices, and improve the clarity of notices.

Representative Lloyd Doggett 
U.S. House of Representatives 
Washington, D.C. 
Re: Medicare Prescription Drug Savings for Our Seniors Act and the Prescription Coverage Now Act 
Dear Representative Doggett: 
The National Health Law Program commends you for introducing both the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings for Our Seniors Act and the Prescription Coverage Now Act. While different in scope, each of these bills would greatly improve the fairness and efficiency of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, and NHeLP is therefore happy to support both. 
The Prescription Coverage Now Act contains numerous provisions designed to make Part D more available to many thousands of senior citizens and fairer for all. Relaxing the assets test for the low income subsidy is clearly the right thing to do, for otherwise we are penalizing seniors, most of whom live on fixed incomes, for having heeded the government?s exhortations to save for their retirement years. Those who did, even though they have very little income, now find they are ?too rich? for the help they need and deserve. We commend your efforts to address this inequity. We also applaud the attention the bill gives to important issues that often escape public attention, such as the need for uniform, informative notices that are comprehensible to those receiving them. Participants in any government-sponsored program are almost always in the best position to monitor its performance, but this essential element of quality control can be frustrated by plan obfuscation or a simple lack of clarity. Requiring understandable notices is critical to insuring that beneficiaries know what they should be receiving and are able to respond appropriately if that does not occur. 
The broader Medicare Prescription Drug Savings for Our Seniors Act adds important features that we agree will greatly improve the Part D program. One is authority for the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prices. This is a common sense measure that is likely to benefit all Part D participants. We also think the introduction of a Medicare administered prescription drug plan is a good idea, if for no other reason than to insure the existence of one plan that beneficiaries know they can trust, year in and year out, as is the case with the other parts of the Medicare program. 
In short, we are pleased to endorse these two bills. 


Steve Hitov 
Managing Attorney

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