AARP to GOP: Leave Medicare Part D doughnut hole alone

Prescription Drugs and Money image
Without a recent provision that closed a doughnut hole for Part D recipients, enrolled seniors could pay an average increase of nearly $7,000 in out-of-pocket costs. (TaxRebate.org.uk)

AARP struck back Wednesday at a group of lawmakers who want to revisit a recently alleviated doughnut hole in Medicare Part D.

Earlier this year, Congress included provisions in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 to avert this deadline. However, some lawmakers are having second thoughts about the funding used to close the doughnut hole.

The Medicare "doughnut hole" refers to the amount of out-of-pocket spending beneficiaries must pay on prescription drugs before they qualify for catastrophic coverage. The Affordable Care Act narrowed that doughnut hole, but only until Jan. 1, 2020, at which point it would widen again. In a letter to House leadership in May (PDF), several lawmakers noted that this deadline could set up a nearly $7,000 increase, on average, in out-of-pocket spending seniors would need to pay.

Free Daily Newsletter

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceHealthcare!

The healthcare sector remains in flux as policy, regulation, technology and trends shape the market. FierceHealthcare subscribers rely on our suite of newsletters as their must-read source for the latest news, analysis and data impacting their world. Sign up today to get healthcare news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

“This critically important reform will enable beneficiaries who face high drug costs to pay less for their prescription drugs. A recent study found that this change will save beneficiaries $6.7 billion in out-of-pocket costs between 2020 and 2027,” Joyce A. Rogers, senior vice president of government affairs at AARP, wrote in the letter (PDF).

RELATED: Congress' big Medicare changes include lifting therapy caps, shrinking the ‘doughnut hole’

AARP, one of the largest lobbying groups in the country, is speaking out now because many Republican lawmakers are having second thoughts about the reform. In a letter signed by 155 representatives sent to House Republican leadership in June, the congressmen expressed hesitation about the amount of public money used to close the doughnut hole.

“The ACA artificially slowed the rate of growth in the catastrophic coverage limit from 2014 to 2019,” the representatives wrote (PDF). “This change, in addition to other Part D changes under the ACA, has resulted in increased expenditures for the federal government and taxpayers.”

AARP was quick to push back on any potential changes. On Wednesday it sent each of their offices a letter, reprimanding them for picking at the doughnut hole and urging them to leave it alone.

“We are very concerned that you recently signed onto a letter that called for this beneficiary improvement to be revisited," Rogers wrote. "Undoing this progress will increase prescription drug costs for older Americans, particularly those who face the highest cost."