HEALTH ACCESS ALERT
Friday, May 27th, 2005

MEDICARE DRUG ALERT: ACT NOW TO PROTECT MEDICARE PATIENTS

  • CA Budget Conference Committee To Start Wed; Decisions on Medicare Rx Coverage in Early June
  • Key Bill Needs 2/3 Vote Next Week to Provide Consumer Protections Under Medicare Drug Plans

Medicare soon will be introducing Part D, the prescription drug benefit, set to begin on January 1, 2006. The implementation of this new program is starting now, but it raises many questions and concerns. Senior, consumer, low-income, and patient advocates need YOUR VOICE in the next week to support proposals to protect seniors and patients. Please take action and forward this alert to a friend or colleague.

PROTECT ACCESS TO NEEDED MEDICINES

Nearly one million low-income seniors and people with beneficiaries in California need protections as they are forced into an entirely new and more restrictive type of drug benefit through Medicare Part D. These are the aged, blind and disabled Californians with both Medicare and Medi-Cal coverage. They currently get comprehensive coverage from Medi-Cal, but on January 1st they will be switched into a Medicare drug plan with higher cost-sharing and less access to certain drugs. Continuity of care will not be guaranteed. The very short transition period will leave no margin for error.

Urge your legislator and all legislators, and especially members of the Budget Conference Committee, to provide emergency drug coverage to ensure that the nearly one million vulnerable Medicare recipients with Medi-Cal coverage continue to get their needed medicines without interruption. To protect these patients during the implementation of Medicare Part D, this emergency coverage will be essential to ensure access to anti-psychotics, HIV/AIDS drugs, anti-seizure or other specified classes of drugs or conditions.

The Budget Conference Committee, which will start meeting Wednesday, June 1st, will consider this in the first several days in June.

Urge them to:

  • Augment the Governor’s Budget to include an emergency drug coverage plan for the Medicare-covered drugs for first two years of Part D to ensure continuity of care for “dual eligible” beneficiaries. This will ensure patients get needed medications pending appeal or exception processes.
  • Augment the Governor’s Budget to provide assistance with new co-pay and premium burdens for “dual-eligible” beneficiaries.

Conference Committee Members:
Send to: The Hon. __, State Capitol, Room __, Sacramento, CA 94248
Senator Wes Chesbro (D-Solano/Sonoma/Napa/Humboldt) 916/651-4002, Room 5035
Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-Riverside/San Diego) 916/651-4040, Room 4081
Senator Dennis Hollingsworth (R) (R-Riverside/San Diego) 916/651-4036, Room 5064
Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz/Monterey) 916/319-2027, Room 6026
Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Los Angeles) 916/319-2049, Room 2114
Assemblyman Rick Keene (R-Butte/Placer/Nevada/Yuba) 916/319-2003, Room 6027

For more info on this issue, see the letter written by over a dozen senior, consumer, low-income, and patient advocacy groups:
http://www.health-access.org/preserving/letter_medicare.htm

PROVIDE CONSUMER PROTECTIONS IN MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLANS

Urge your legislator and all legislators to support AB1359 (Chan), to ensure the new Medicare prescription drug plans are licensed, and abide by California health consumer protections.

Under the HMO Patients Bill of Rights, consumers have key protections under the Department of Managed Health Care, and this bill simply allows those same protections apply, where applicable, to these new prescription drug plans.

Due to the urgency of getting these protections in place before Medicare Part D starts, this bill requires a 2/3 vote, needing both Democratic and Republican support, and must be passed in the Assembly by June 3rd.

To take a look at the letter that Health Access California sent in support, go to the Health Access website at:
http://www.health-access.org/docs/2005BillLetters/AB1359_hac_asm_health.doc

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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