Rx Choice: Last Chance to Be Heard Is Friday!

Susan Weinstein, JD
Editor in Chief, Care for Your Mind

This Friday, January 25, 2019, is the deadline for submitting your comments to help preserve access to the spectrum of drugs for treating health conditions like depression, schizophrenia, cancer, HIV, and epilepsy and supporting organ transplants for people on Medicare.

If you are ready to comment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about why it’s important to preserve access to medications, you can go to the Partnership for Part D Access Action Center page.

If you’d like to learn more, read our recent posts on why these classes of medications should be protected and how you can help.

If you’d like to know what other patient advocacy organizations are saying, here is a sampling.

The National Council for Behavioral Health posted a statement warning that “The Trump administration’s proposed changes would disrupt these patient protections, potentially jeopardizing the current mental health treatment regimens of Medicare beneficiaries. Among the changes proposed by HHS, are restrictions tied to arbitrary measures and new drug classifications, potentially denying patients new, innovative medications. Additionally, the administration is seeking to impose step therapy or “fail first” constraints on treatments under six protected classes, mandating some patients try other, potentially less effective medications before they have access to a more tailored regimen fit for their individual needs. These changes could apply to current treatment plans, which could cause vulnerable patients with mental health needs to lose access to medications that are working.”

“The Epilepsy Foundation strongly supports Medicare Part D’s Six Protected Classes policy which ensures greater protections for six classes of medications, including anticonvulsants for epilepsy. Epilepsy medications are not interchangeable, and beneficiaries often react quite differently to the available treatments. People living with epilepsy need meaningful access to the full range of therapies available, and the specialists who know how to prescribe them. When people living with epilepsy are forced to switch medications, or alter their treatment plan, this can lead to breakthrough seizures, associated complications and costs, or even death.” Read the Epilepsy Foundation’s full statement.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network wrote: “The administration has proposed a policy change to Medicare Part D that could have devastating consequences for cancer patients on Medicare. These proposed changes could have wide-ranging impact as currently 43 million American seniors rely on Medicare Part D plans for their prescription drug coverage.

The proposed changes could allow the plans to delay patient access to cutting edge cancer drugs and overrule oncologists and deny coverage for a drug a doctor recommends. Cancer patients enrolled in Medicare Part D plans could be negatively affected by this proposed policy change as they could be denied coverage for lifesaving drugs…. We must do all we can to make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable for cancer patients.”

Mental Health America “is concerned that limitations on medication access driven by cost (rather than any compelling clinical reason), will hurt individuals with mental health and substance use conditions in the short-term, and actually increase health care spending in the long-term.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness “believes that Medicare Part D should fully cover all medications prescribed for the treatment of serious mental illness.”

If you would like more information about Part D, the Kaiser Family Foundation explains the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit.

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