The Obama administration has dropped controversial plans to overhaul the Medicare prescription drug program amid withering criticism from the industry, patient advocacy groups and lawmakers that the changes would limit seniors’ access to certain medications and choice of plans.
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner wrote in a letter to Congress Monday that she was shelving changes proposed in January that could have loosened the requirements that Medicare Part D insurance plans cover a broad range of drugs in six “protected classes” of medications. The changes also would have limited the number of drug plans that were available.
The letter comes a day before a potentially embarrassing House vote was expected on a bill to block the changes to the program — the Keep the Promise to Seniors Act, which could have garnered bipartisan support.
The Medicare proposal was not part of the Affordable Care Act, but the controversy over the president’s still unpopular health law and the November elections meant the timing was not good for another health care battle, and one that’s readily wrapped into the fight over Obamacare. Even some patient groups that had been strong allies of the White House on the federal health care law were sharply criticizing aspects of the Part D proposal, especially loosening up the mandatory coverage of three out of six classes of drugs.
What this means, of course, is exactly what the Obamacare “delays” mean – they’ll drop the issue … for now, because it’s inconvenient to the Democrats running for election or re-election across the country, whether they would vote for it or not. But after the 2014 elections, if they’re in the right political position to do so, the White House will pick this right back up again.