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posted: 9/3/2012 5:00 AM

Part D is essential to seniors' health

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As we head into another busy presidential election season, we all should be paying close attention to what the candidates have to say about the future of our health care system. Indeed, legislators took a tremendous step for all Americans by passing the Affordable Care Act, and the Supreme Court upheld it, but it's hard to ignore the looming decisions that still need to be made to address the federal deficit.

Once the campaign dust settles, Congress will surely focus on balancing the budget by slashing spending on federal programs like Medicare, including its prescription drug benefit known as Medicare Part D.

This is alarming. Our patients depend on lifesaving oncology medications to treat serious conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's and myeloma -- and they may be priced right out of the therapies they need to survive. It's not a benefit; it is essential.

Spending cuts that hinder access to care and medications will only increase health care costs in the long run as patients stop taking their medications because they can no longer afford them, resulting in more hospital and emergency care visits. What then will Congress do to reduce costs? It is shortsighted, and not acceptable.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that improved access and adherence to medicines through Part D coverage saves Medicare about $1,200 per year in hospital, nursing home and other costs for each senior who previously lacked comprehensive prescription drug coverage. This finding equals about $12 billion per year in savings across Medicare.

Medicare Part D is the rare government program that is costing less than projected and exceeding expectations. Unlike many, this program works. Urge your member of Congress to address the federal deficit without putting the Medicare program on the chopping block. Heidi Snell Egan


Senior director, Mission Support

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Illinois

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