U.S. Chamber of Commerce Letter to Congressional Leadership on Implementing the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
September 21, 2005
Letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Frist, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Grassley, Senate Budget Chairman Gregg, House Speaker Hastert, House Majority Leader DeLay, House Finance Committee Chairman Thomas, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Barton and House Finance Committee Chairman Nussle.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses of every size, sector, and region, supports the full implementation of the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit on January 1, 2006, as planned. Recent proposals to delay the implementation of this important benefit are of grave concern to the Chamber.
While we share lawmakers' concerns about program growth, we urge Congress to instead focus on greater use of health information technology in the Medicare system, paying physicians for optimal performance, and paying appropriately for services provided. This is no time to delay a promised Medicare benefit that seniors are anticipating and need more than ever, for a host of reasons.
Extensive education and outreach has been building up to the November 15, 2005 initial enrollment period. Seniors are expecting this benefit and have been planning accordingly. Entertaining the possibility of delaying this benefit will put seniors in limbo and lead to the possibility that some Medicare beneficiaries may delay enrollment, causing them to pay higher premiums later. This is no time to play games with seniors who have been counting on this benefit, which has been lacking for too long in the Medicare program. Along with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other advocacy organizations, the Chamber has engaged in a significant direct mail campaign educating seniors about this forthcoming benefit and outlining steps to prepare for choosing an appropriate Medicare Part D Plan. The Chamber's direct mail efforts to nineteen million Medicare households began in late August and will continue through late October.
Finally, it is logistically impossible at this late stage for employers to alter their retiree health plan for 2006. Since the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act in December 2003, employers have worked closely with CMS to integrate this new Medicare benefit into their retiree health programs, which currently provide prescription drug coverage to twelve million Medicare beneficiaries. Employers and health plans have spent these past two years evaluating their plan design to comply with Medicare's requirements incorporating the benefit into private plans. Many employers are now conducting, or will soon begin, open enrollment for 2006. The Medicare benefit factors heavily into their plan design and it would be impossible to alter those plans at this point.
We recognize that recent emergency spending may require cuts in some programs. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urges Congress to reject any delay in this much needed and widely anticipated benefit.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President Government Affairs