Today the Partnership for Medicare Part D will hold a Congressional briefing to discuss the significance of Medicare’s “Six Protected Classes” policy giving seniors access to quality mental health care. While you may not be able to attend in person, it is still critical that you educate your Congressional Representative and Senators on the importance of retaining these benefits.
How Will You Protect Access to Quality Mental Health Care for Seniors?
According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation depression impacts more than 6 million of the 40 million Americans over 65. Health problems become more common and increasingly complex as seniors age. With the onset of more serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, individualized medicine becomes increasingly critical to helping seniors manage their mental and physical health.
This is why Congress carved out six protected classes of medications when they authorized Medicare Part D. Their intent was that seniors would have access to these medications without regulatory burdens. The preservation of the six protected classes is critical to providing treatment for serious, complex health conditions without delay or restricted access to essential treatment.
Unfortunately, access to this often life-saving personalized care was recently threatened when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a regulation limiting seniors’ access to critical medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and immunosuppressants by removing them from protected class status. Under this proposed rule, individuals living with depression or another mood disorder could have been forced to switch their medications, significantly jeopardizing their physical, emotional and psychological health and wellness. Taking away these protected classes would have serious consequences, resulting in poor patient outcomes and higher costs for our nation’s seniors.
Thankfully, the proposed regulation did not go into effect. But the concern remains strong that CMS could well choose to revisit this issue in the future. Without a strong patient-led effort to continuously educate members of Congress and other policymakers in our nation’s capital, the possibility remains high that this, or future, administrations could continue to look for ways to limit access to these vital medicines in the name of cost savings. Hopefully, our voices will be heard at CMS, and its leadership will unequivocally endorse the six protected classes policy. But until that day, Congress must remain our bulwark against these dangerous proposals.
Now is the time to take action to protect the rights of individuals utilizing the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Contact your Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators. Thank them for their commitment to the current six protected classes policy and urge them to remain vigilant against proposals to undermine this vital pillar of the Medicare benefit.
The Partnership for Medicare Part D Access has made it easy for you to get your message to Congress.
- Access the partnership website
- Enter your address to obtain contact information for your representative and senators
- Personalize the letter with either your or your loved one’s experience
- Follow the instructions to deliver
Now is the time to act. Let Congress know that we expect them to continue to respect the rights of individuals living with complex medical conditions to continue to have access to quality medical care.
- How will you or a loved one be affected if the changes proposed by CMS are implemented?
- What will you do to get the word to Congress to retain current level of Medicare Part D benefits?