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Keep Medicare prescription drug program humming along

Keep Medicare prescription drug program humming along

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It’s 2013, and as we watch the machinations of Washington, D.C.’s, response to the national economic situation, every citizen is expecting to pay more in taxes, whether we want to or not, and get less in government services. It is our current reality, and citizens seem united in expecting our elected officials to work together toward thoughtful compromises.

Medicare Part D is a federal program to subsidize the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries. This program has only been around since 2006, but a recent study revealed 85 percent of enrollees reported being satisfied with their drug plan.

As a world-class center for life science research, Missouri has a big stake in protecting Medicare Part D. Our state enjoys and increasingly relies upon the new investment and new business development fueled by the biopharmaceutical sector. Missouri has cultivated a highly esteemed community of researchers as national research leaders like Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Missouri and St. Louis University continue to build their biomedical research depth. Our university researcher teams successfully develop new products that not only make us healthier, but that also help contribute to the health of our state’s economy.

Now in its eighth year, Medicare Part D has exceeded expectations and is the rare government program that consistently comes in under budget. According to the Congressional Budget Office figures, Part D is operating at 42 percent — or $435 billion — below initial projections. In early August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its projection for average Medicare Part D premiums for 2013: $30 per month. That is 50 percent less than originally projected in 2004.

These savings are a direct correlative to the fact that under the current system of private market-based competition, Part D offers a broad spectrum of options that provide enrollees access to the medicines and cures they need. Studies back basic common sense and show that adherence to doctors’ orders improves overall health and reduces the need for costly, avoidable hospitalizations.

When a government program is effective, that’s when the temptation of change inevitably leads to dumb moves in the name of reform. The seniors like this program, the government knows it is affordable — but be watchful as here comes the throwback ideas of price controls, imposed rebates, and rationed care which will imperil the core benefits of Medicaid Part D and set off a far-reaching ripple effect.

If you are a user of Part D medicines, be sure to thank a U.S. researcher that played a part in discovering this treatment. Also, thank your U.S. senator for building a model government program that works for seniors, and ask them to be thoughtful as they balance the nation’s needs.

Kelly P. Gillespie is executive director of the Missouri Biotechnology Association.

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