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Part D price controls a dangerous idea

By TONY SHERIDAN

Publication: The Day

Published February 24. 2013 4:00AM

We face some daunting challenges in a number of areas that are critical to our nation's future as well as the region's economy. If we're not careful, one proposal under consideration in Washington - extending Medicaid-style price controls to the successful Medicare prescription drug program known as Part D - could cause great harm to Connecticut's economy.

The Medicare prescription drug program has been a success. It has provided necessary medications to Medicare beneficiaries at a far lower cost than anticipated. The Part D costs are 43 percent under initial projections, and have resulted in overall savings of $13.4 billion in the first full year of the program.

In eastern Connecticut last year, seniors saved nearly $11 million in Part D "donut hole" costs, according to information U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney obtained from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The proposed action in Washington would take aim at a program that has proven to be very successful in helping people and it would have the unintended effect of costing jobs here in Connecticut and throughout the nation.

If these government price controls in the form of mandatory rebates are imposed on Part D, it could have a negative ripple effect on our state's economy. By doing the math you come up with a potential job loss of more than 3,100 jobs in Connecticut alone.

As we all know, taking steps that will end up costing jobs is the last thing our still-struggling economy needs. We also do not want to do something that will risk rising rates for seniors and others. Fixing something that isn't broken is never a good idea.

A former director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office suggests that premiums in Part D would jump by 20 percent to 40 percent if current proposals were enacted. The CBO also has reported that such action could also adversely impact investment in the research and development of new medicines. Part D enjoys a 90-percent satisfaction rate among Medicare beneficiaries. For all these reasons we need Congress to abandon this misguided effort.

The core membership in our regional chamber is small business, but we have many non-profits which serve people with a variety of important services - medical, social and educational. These people have borne up under tremendous pressure during the recession and they don't need any additional stress that would result from the proposed changes to the Part D.

All these organizations are necessary if our community is to remain vibrant and its people healthy, and that is why we feel it important to address this issue that will not only put jobs at risk but raise health care costs for seniors and others who have benefited from the Part D program.

Tony Sheridan is president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

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