Medicare Part D is a vital part of our country’s safety net. The program provides coverage for prescription drugs that save and extend lives for millions of Americans, many of whom would otherwise struggle to afford their treatments.
Despite the important purpose it serves, however, Medicare Part D isn’t perfect. The program has several shortcomings that can lead to higher-than-necessary costs and frustrating patient experiences. These challenges include a Low-Income Subsidy program with insufficient reach, runaway out-of-pocket costs that frequently devastate patients nationwide and an open enrollment process that can be confusing and time-consuming.
At PAN, we help Medicare Part D beneficiaries every day. And as part of our mission, we’ve long advocated for reforms to the program—including an expansion of Low-Income Subsidy eligibility and a simpler open enrollment process.
While we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, there’s still a long way to go, which is why we encourage our community of patients, providers, alliance partners and others to join us in fighting for improvements that would help millions of patients live longer, healthier lives.
To help you join the effort, here are four ways you can help promote reforms to Medicare Part D in your community:
1. Learn more
Before advocating for improvements to Medicare Part D, it’s crucial to understand the issues at hand. The PAN Foundation offers many resources on our website and blog to help interested readers learn more about Medicare Part D and how legislators and advocacy groups are expanding access to prescription drugs.
The PAN blog has articles on a range of relevant topics, including:
Another helpful resource is this outline of recent legislative proposals for Medicare reform.
By using these databases to learn more about Medicare Part D, you can better inform your conversations about potential reforms you would like to advocate for in the Medicare program.
Be sure to allow yourself some extra time this year to first learn to navigate the updated Plan Finder before beginning the selection process. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends that you set up a MyMedicare.gov account. This will allow the site to pull information from your Medicare file (i.e., current plan information, prescriptions filled, subsidy levels) to generate more customized list of plan choices.
2. Write or call your representatives
Once you’ve gathered the facts, use them!
Identify your senators or representatives using the House of Representatives and Senate websites—just look up your town and the site will provide the necessary contact information and mailing address.
When writing to or speaking with your representative or senator, it’s important to be concise and to the point. Lawmakers are extremely busy, so try to focus on one topic or potential reform, whether it’s advocating for an out-of-pocket cap on prescription medications or an expansion to the Low-Income Subsidy Program.
It’s also helpful to use real-life examples to explain why these reforms are necessary, such as citing your own example, or that of a friend or family member who would have benefited from an improvement to Medicare Part D. Doing so can humanize the discussion and leave a lasting impression on your local legislator.
3. Schedule meetings with your senator or local representatives
It might seem like a daunting task to meet with members of Congress, but your representatives and senators want to hear from you. Residents of a district can schedule meetings with their representatives in Washington, D.C. or at their district or home offices when they are home.
To schedule a meeting in Washington, D.C., you can call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for the health legislative assistant of your member of Congress. Due to their busy schedules, you will likely not be connected to a Capitol Hill staffer right away. That’s why it’s also worth emailing the assistant to request a meeting with your member of Congress.
This process may take a few weeks, but that doesn’t diminish the staff’s eagerness about hearing your opinions and questions! In some cases, it can be faster to meet with legislative staff members at the representative’s office in your district. To do so, call the closest district office and ask for the staffer who oversees health issues. These phone numbers can be found on your representative or senator’s website.
When meeting with your members of Congress, remember these tips:
- Be prompt;
- Be prepared;
- Be brief and concise (you may only have a short amount of time for your meeting);
- Be impactful by using personal stories to illustrate the importance of Medicare reforms;
- Be positive and agreeable; never disagree or argue with your representative or staffer;
- Bring helpful materials to leave behind like your business card or a description of your desired reforms;
- Follow up with a thank you note detailing your discussion, either via email or mail.
4. Share information about Medicare reforms on social media
One easy way to promote reforms to Medicare Part D is to share information on the topic on your social media channels. Whether it’s liking or following an advocacy group that supports reforms you agree with, or reposting articles on healthcare and Medicare policies, spreading the word on social will help inform your friends and family about Medicare Part D and important, related issues such as out-of-pocket costs and the Low-Income Subsidy Program.
Additionally, joining a patient advocacy group or signing up for healthcare newsletters, like the National Council on Aging newsletter or the Medicare Rights Center newsletter, will help you stay involved and informed.
Pursuing a worthy goal
Medicare helps patients receive life-saving care in times of need, but many Medicare Part D plans often don’t offer financial access to life-saving medications in the long term. By advocating for Medicare reforms using these four tactics, you can encourage your family, friends and members of Congress to make better decisions about drug pricing and Medicare reforms, and help patients suffering from long-term illnesses get coverage for their life-saving medications.
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