With less than three weeks to the end of the year, the "fiscal cliff" is near, and lawmakers are scrambling to find a set of solutions that can pass Congress and be signed by the president. In the course of these very public negotiations, there has been a lot of talk about "cutting Medicare." Some of the suggestions folks on Capitol Hill are throwing around, though, would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Lawmakers should spare the ax on Medicare's prescription drug benefit known as Part D. This program is a success story for seniors and taxpayers -- actually running under budget and controlling government costs. Medicare Part D, now in its sixth year, is coming in $435 billion below initial projections. And seniors are happy: 90 percent of Part D enrollees are satisfied with their coverage and 96 percent say their coverage works well.
More to the fiscal point, Medicare Part D -- spending money on drugs, including some expensive remedies -- actually saves taxpayer dollars overall. Expenditures on medicines have averaged a steady 8 to 10 percent of total health care costs over the last decade or so. Taking a pill or having an infusion often keeps a patient out of hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices. In fact, a study recently found that the availability of drug coverage is achieving savings of about $1,200 per beneficiary in hospital and skilled nursing facility costs, for an estimated annual savings of $12 billion.
Programs that work, provide thousands of jobs and save millions in taxpayer dollars should continue. We should urge our members of Congress to address the federal deficit without putting Medicare Part D under the knife.
President & CEO
Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization