Obama Administration Drops Proposal to Limit Medicare Drugs

Monday, 10 Mar 2014 10:05 PM

By Jason Devaney

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The Obama administration has abandoned a proposed change in Medicare after the plan was criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The plan would have given health insurance companies more freedom to limit the number of drugs covered by Medicare. Those against the proposal said it would restrict seniors’ access to drugs they need.

Under current Medicare law, the majority of drugs across six classes are covered. The proposed plan would have limited that list to three classes — drugs that treat cancer, HIV and seizures.

“We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years,” Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner wrote to lawmakers Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky responded by saying the Obama administration should not go forward with its proposed cut in Medicare Advantage, a program that helps seniors pay for select medical services — including prescription drugs, also known as Part D.

“We remain concerned about the impact of Obamacare’s looming cuts to Medicare Advantage, something that was not addressed in today’s announcement,” McConnell said in a statement. “Seniors need to know whether the president will stand by his word, and that they can keep the plans they have and like.”

As the administration tries to regulate the industry more under the Affordable Care Act, seniors’ access to drugs has become a hot-button issue. Several proposals have popped up, ranging from limiting certain drugs depending on where the patient lives to allowing all pharmacies to dispense medication, regardless of the patient’s plan or healthcare network.

“We plan to finalize proposals related to consumer protections, anti-fraud provisions that have bipartisan support and transparency after taking into consideration the comments received during the public comment period,” Tavenner wrote.

The Partnership for Part D Access, a coalition based in Washington that advocates for the right of seniors to continue to receive prescription drug coverage, was pleased with Monday’s decision to ax the proposal.

“We are thrilled that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] has listened to the loud chorus of support for maintaining beneficiary access to the life-saving drugs provided under Medicare Part D,” said coalition member Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health.

“Although we need to remain vigilant on this issue, we commend today’s action by CMS, which will allow millions of seniors to continue to confidently rely upon Medicare to provide them the drugs they need.”

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