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Call to Action: Protect Access to Part D Drugs (October 2015)

Call to Action: Protect Access to Part D Drugs (October 2015)

Dear Patient Advocate:

 We are writing to encourage you to send a letter to your Senator to encourage his support for legislation meant to ensure patients have open access to potentially lifesaving drugs under Medicare Part D.  

We have taken the liberty of providing a draft letter and easy-to-use portal to direct a letter to your Senators with the click of a button. This effort is being coordinated alongside other stakeholder allies of ours in the Partnership for Part D Access.


Every day, millions of Americans rely upon their Medicare drug benefit to help manage their health conditions, including mental illness, organ transplants, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, lupus, cancer and HIV. Because patients with these illnesses react differently to different medicines, access to the full range of effective medications is a crucial component of successful treatment and recovery. Medicare’s “Six Protected Class” policy has long stood as a guarantee to patients that their access to all available medications would never be in doubt.

On January 10, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a proposal that would make significant and troubling changes to the agency’s  “protected classes” policy. The Proposed Rule would have removed antidepressants and immunosuppressants in 2015 and antipsychotics in 2016 from the list of protected formulary classes. Other classes of drugs—including medications for the treatment of HIV, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy—could be next.

Bending to significant public pressure, CMS withdrew its proposal in the spring of 2014. Since then, a coalition of patient groups, the Partnership for Part D Access, has worked to encourage the introduction of legislation that would remove CMS’ authority to ever challenge the protected status of these drug classes in the future. And in March of this year, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Medicare Formulary Improvement Act (S.648).

Unfortunately, this effort is currently stalled in the Senate, as the bill awaits a necessary “scoring” its budgetary impact by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The bill’s sponsors, and we, believe that the bill will score at a cost of “zero,” but without the CBO’s analysis, Congress simply won’t allow the bill to move forward.

How You Can Help

We need you, and patient advocates across the country, to encourage their Senators to ask CBO to swiftly analyze the bill so that they can continue to move forward with this important initiative.

About the Partnership for Part D Access

The Partnership is a collection of healthcare stakeholders who are committed to maintaining access to the full list of available medications under Medicare Part D. These medications are vital to the treatment of (1) epilepsy/Parkinson’s, (2) mental illness, (3) cancer, (4) HIV-AIDS, and (5) organ transplants. The Partnership is working to combat efforts to undermine beneficiary access to proper treatment by increasing policymaker awareness regarding the potential impact of this proposal. In addition to a number of supporters from the pharmaceutical industry, the Partnership’s membership includes: The National Council for Behavioral Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the AIDS Institute, the Epilepsy Foundation, the American Kidney Fund, the Parkinson’s Action Network, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and the National Kidney Foundation.