Senator Kirk Announces Plan to Prevent CMS from Blocking Seniors’ Prescription Access

Following receipt of letter co-signed by Kirk, CMS withdraws proposed rule to reduce access to important medications; CMS rule would have reduced prescription access for 948,000 Illinois Medicare recipients

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–March 14, 2014.  Following the withdrawal of a proposed rule by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would have reduced Medicare recipients’ access to vital prescriptions, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today announced his plan to ensure that those covered under Medicare will continue to have access to prescription drugs moving forward.

“Nearly a million seniors in Illinois would have been blocked from drugs like immunosuppressants, antidepressants and antipsychotics,” Sen. Kirk said. “CMS was stopped from circumventing Congress this time but these executive rule changes can’t become a trend.”

In January, CMS proposed a new federal rule to reduce access to three classes of prescription drugs for roughly 948,000 Illinois Medicare recipients – despite a statutory requirement for Medicare to cover such drugs under Medicare Part D. In response, Sen. Kirk, along with 13 other senators, sent a letter last week to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging her to intervene and withdraw the CMS proposal. Earlier this week, CMS announced it was no longer moving forward with the prescription drug rule change.

“To restrict access through Medicare to vital prescriptions is unacceptable and potentially dangerous,” Sen. Kirk said. “CMS needs to be held accountable to ensure that nothing like this plan moves forward again. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure our seniors do not lose access to the medications they rely on.”

Sen. Kirk, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, which funds CMS, said he will offer an amendment to the committee’s annual appropriations bill to prevent CMS from circumventing the law to block seniors’ access to prescription drugs or to eliminate their choice of pharmacy.

Sen. Kirk was joined by Kevin Colgan, Corporate Director of Pharmacy at Rush University Medical Center; Kevin Scanlan, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council (MCHC); and David Miller, President and CEO of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (iBIO).

“By limiting seniors’ access to prescription drugs, the proposed CMS rule would have hurt millions of Americans,” Colgan said. “People need open access to their medications and open access to the pharmacies of their choice in order to make sure that they are receiving high quality, personalized care.”

“Often times, patients have to try several medications before finding one that works well for them. This is the case for many transplant patients needing immunosuppressants, as well as individuals taking antidepressants,” Scanlan said. “Proper medication management leads to decreased admission rates and lower costs, and we at MCHC are committed to making sure our member hospitals and the patients they serve receive the health care they need, especially as it pertains to their ongoing, continuity of care.”

“As the champion for the life sciences in Illinois, iBIO deeply appreciates the hard work Senator Kirk and his staff are devoting to proposed changes in Medicare,” said Miller. “There are many proposals out there—like this failed CMS plan—that look like cost savings at first glance, but we need to remember that it is far cheaper to provide the right prescriptions now than to readmit a patient later. Senator Kirk’s doing a good job of discouraging penny-wise-pound-foolish schemes.”

A copy of the letter sent to Secretary Sebelius can be found here.