The constant news stories about our sluggish economy, high rate of unemployment and federal budget deficit are enough to make optimists start seeing the world as half empty. Yet amidst all this negative news, some things are actually working well.
Take Medicare Part D. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the program costs 41 percent less than originally projected and several recent studies show that the program is increasing access to medicines while lowering healthcare costs and improving health. You can watch a great new video on the success of Medicare Part D and the following studies provide even more excellent data.
· A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that each year Part D prescription drug coverage saves Medicare about $1,200 in lower hospital, nursing home and other medical for each senior who previously lacked comprehensive prescription drug coverage. According to other experts, this equals about $12 billion per year in savings across Medicare.
· A study by Harvard Medical School researchers published in Health Services Research found that in the 23 states for which the researchers had data, hospitalization rates declined by 4.1 percent, or by 42,000 annual admissions, across 8 conditions that are sensitive to medication adherence such as diabetes, COPD, asthma and acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Researchers concluded that access to prescription coverage under Medicare Part D has had positive clinical benefits, improving beneficiaries' underlying health, and reducing their need for hospital care.
Lawmakers in DC continue to advocate for mandated rebates in Part D as a way to fix our nation's budget deficit. As I noted in an earlier blog post, if the proposal is adopted, premiums are expected to rise for beneficiaries and thousands of high-quality jobs could be lost. Additionally, mandating rebates in Part D would hamper the biopharmaceutical industry's ability to continue investing dollars in the research and development of life-saving and -improving medicines and vaccines.
Medicare cost savings are just one bright spot in our economy. Research and development of new medicines and vaccines continues to be a collaborative effort between the government and the pharmaceutical industry. In 2009, the private sector invested $65.3B. Another $30.5B was spent by the National Institutes of Health. Cultivating and maintaining an environment in the US that encourages research and development will allow us to remain a leader in medical innovation, and help our nation move forward.
Medicare Part D's competitive, market-based structure is working well--and should be preserved.