The advisory board would likely target the highly popular Medicare Part D prescription drug program, which provides seniors and individuals living with disabilities with access to affordable prescription drug coverage. For over 10 years, Part D has allowed beneficiaries to choose from a range of private plans that best meet their needs. Insurers have to compete with each other for beneficiaries’ business. That competition keeps prices low. Several surveys show 90 percent or more of beneficiaries are satisfied with their Part D coverage.
Restricting patients’ access to medicines covered by Part D would put people’s lives at risk. The program has reduced newly enrolled seniors’ mortality rates by more than 2 percent annually, according to a University of Illinois study. Part D prescription coverage also helped reduce hospitalizations by 8 percent during the program’s first four years, according to a separate Johns Hopkins review.
Restricting patients’ access to vital medicines would reverse these trends. That’s why New Jersey health advocacy groups have long sought the IPAB’s repeal. Our organizations, BioNJ and the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, as well as patient and provider organizations like the Medical Society of New Jersey and Easter Seals of New Jersey have written to Congress urging such reform.
Many members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation listened. Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen, Josh Gottheimer, Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, Tom MacArthur, Donald Norcross, Bill Pascrell, Albio Sires, Chris Smith, and Bonnie Watson Coleman joined in a compelling bipartisan effort that passed HR 849, the “Protecting Seniors Access to Medicare Act.”
U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez would do New Jerseyans a great service by supporting similar legislation in Congress’ upper chamber. Fifteen unelected officials shouldn’t have the power to determine which treatments tens of millions of seniors can access. Congress should reclaim its rightful authority over Medicare and put an end to the IPAB for good.
Debbie Hart is president and CEO of BioNJ. Dean J. Paranicas is president and CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey. Hart and Paranicas are co-chairs of We Work for Health – New Jersey.