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Protect Our Free-Market, Consumer-Based Medicare Part-D Plans

Protect Our Free-Market, Consumer-Based Medicare Part-D Plans

Author: Ron Hall

Over the past year, we have all learned the critical importance of maintaining the integrity of our prescription drugs supply chains.

With over 90% of prescription drugs now generic, the need to keep drug prices low has driven manufacturing and raw materials procurement to India and China.

Our experiences during the COVID-19 crisis prove the global supply chain is simply not reliable. It is too vulnerable to population health distortions, political pressure, and volatile market conditions.

The United States has the highest prescription drug costs in the world. Because of this, seniors are burdened. Most seniors like myself, live on fixed incomes and depend on Medicare Part D to control their costs. Almost 20% of Arizona’s population is over 65 and we all share responsibility for ensuring their needs are met.

In 2006, Congress created a prescription drug benefit known as Medicare Part D.  Today, it benefits Arizona seniors when they purchase a stand-alone prescription drug plan or enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan, similar to an HMO. 

Every year, seniors can choose the Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan that best suits their individual needs. 

To attract seniors, plans must deliver on both price and service. Since low monthly premiums and co-pays appeal to seniors, plans have an incentive to negotiate with drug manufacturers.

Consumer choice and free-market competition, which are the backbone of Part D’s design, have resulted in a government benefit with impressive satisfaction rates above 90%. In addition, the cost to the Medicare Trust Fund and seniors, as measured by the average monthly premium, are substantially less than predicted when Part D became law. A claim few, if any, government benefit programs can make. 

At a time when we are depending on America’s innovative technologies and scientists to develop therapeutics and vaccines that treat or prevent COVID-19, we are reminded that many seniors also depend on lifesaving pharmaceuticals and must be able to afford them.

Congress is considering a few policy changes that don’t undermine the intent of Part D and Medicare Advantage plans – a free-market, consumer choice for all seniors.

These new policy changes include two bills; S. 3129 presented by Senator Mike Crapo and H.R. 19 from Congressman Greg Walden. They include provisions that cap annual out of pocket costs, allow deductible payments over 12 months, and drastically lower the price of insulin. They also make sure the savings, which plans negotiate with drug companies, are passed directly onto enrolled seniors.

Smart solutions to lowering drug costs must provide relief to seniors without throttling research and slowing the introduction of new therapies and cures. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud of the thousands of Arizonans who work and contribute to the thriving biopharmaceutical and biotech industries across the state.

Within weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, Arizona innovators and university partners began protective equipment while therapeutics and vaccines were fast-tracked into clinical trials.

The eyes of the world are focused on Arizona’s success in urgently deploying collaborative, pragmatic solutions that benefit Americans and protect public health.

Our quick actions have not only accelerated the sustaining economic value of innovation in our local communities but prove that onerous regulations and oppressive government oversight often inhibit access to essential needs and modern technologies.

This pandemic is teaching us a lot about what we must do to prepare for the future, but it is also reminding us of what we should NOT do.

I’m grateful we are focused on building a better Arizona, together.

Ron Hall is a medicare part-d patient and republican living in Congressional District 5.

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