Congress Should Say No to Cutting Drug Subsidies for Low-Income Seniors

President Barack Obama and congressional appropriators are looking for savings to offset new federal spending programs.  One proposal on the table – drawn from the president’s budget plan – would disproportionately impact low-income seniors who rely on prescription medications for serious medical conditions.

The measure, estimated to save $8.9 billion over ten years, would increase copayments for brand name drugs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries who receive extra financial assistance under the Low Income Subsidy (LIS) program.

Forcing low-income seniors to pay more for brand-name medications could impact the quality of health care for one of the most vulnerable populations in Medicare by limiting their access to needed medicines, and it could result in higher costs for taxpayers.

The policy being contemplated targets individuals with incomes up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level (about $17,700 a year for individuals) who also have limited assets. The LIS program reduces their out-of-pocket spending by paying some or all of their Part D monthly premiums and annual deductibles — and also limiting their co-insurance or copayments.

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