Don't dismantle Part D

For the more than 1.3 million Georgians who rely on Medicare and are concerned about the program’s future, the end of the 2012 election brings an important opportunity – long-awaited improvements to America’s health-care entitlement for seniors!

As lawmakers hash out how best to put the program on solid fiscal footing, they must take great care not to disrupt those components of Medicare that are working well for America’s seniors – especially Medicare Part D, the drug benefit that has shown enormous success both here in Georgia and around the country.

For more than 40 years, Medicare lacked adequate coverage for prescription drugs, even as these medicines became more indispensable to the health of seniors. The program’s implementation was the fulfillment of old promises of health-care security.

Part D gives seniors the freedom to choose from a variety of competing private drug coverage options. This market environment forces insurers to compete for business from Medicare enrollees, driving down prices and improving quality in the process.

The program has been a boon to Georgia Medicare beneficiaries, especially in places such as Augusta, which boasts a higher-than-average percentage of seniors.

The program’s competitive structure has produced unprecedented results. In fact, Part D has cost an impressive 40 percent less than original projections. When you consider that, here in Georgia, Medicare spending is growing at a rate of 8.6 percent a year – faster than the national average – it’s easy to understand the enormous value of a cost-effective health-care entitlement such as Part D.

But the program isn’t just a success according to the numbers. It’s also making a huge difference in the lives of seniors here in the Peach State. And according to a recent poll, 90 percent of beneficiaries nationwide are satisfied with the program as most report that “their plan offers excellent value, reasonable costs, and convenience.”

And yet, believe it or not, reforms currently being considered could up-end Part D by undoing some of its most essential components.

Medicare is in dire need of reform. Its trust fund will run out by 2024, which means that placing the program on a realistic path toward long-term solvency deserves to be a top priority for our leaders in Washington.

But for the sake of Georgia’s seniors – and seniors around the country– our leaders must resist the urge to tamper with a part of the program that continues to prove a historic success.

(The writer is executive director of the Senior Citizens Council of Greater Augusta and the CSRA.)

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