It’s another big couple of weeks in the push for health reform. During his press conference today, President Obama said that health care reform is not a luxury but a necessity. He clarified again that those with private insurance who are happy with it can keep it, but also made it clear as forcefully as I’ve heard him that unless major reform happens, they won’t be able to afford those plans in years to come.
As the lead up to Wednesday night’s “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” special on ABC continues, I saw Obama’s emphasis on containing cost in today’s press conference telling. After all, last week was a tough one for the push for reform, with many fearing the $1 to $1.6 trillion price tag associated with proposed bills would spell the end.
In the middle of the speculation about health reform’s demise and sticker shock came the announcement that Senator Max Baucus (chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) and the country’s pharmaceutical companies reached an agreement to help close the coverage gap under Medicare’s Part D prescription drug program, which enrolls some 27 million elderly patients. Prior to this agreement, Medicare recipients paid the full price of brand-name drugs once they reached $2,200 in medication expenses and until they hit an upper limit of $5,100—an expensive and problematic “doughnut hole.” In a press release from the White House, President Obama said “The existence of this gap in coverage has been a continuing injustice that has placed a great burden on many seniors. This deal will provide significant relief from that burden for millions of American seniors.”
You can watch President Obama discussing the prescription drug agreement here:
The agreement will result in an estimated $80 billion in savings over the next several years. According to PhRMA, “Under this proposed new legislative program – which represents the first important step in health care reform – America’s pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies have agreed to help close the gap in coverage. Specifically, companies will provide a 50 percent discount to most beneficiaries on brand-name medicines covered by a patient’s Part D plan when purchased in the coverage gap.”
The savings are undoubtedly significant for the seniors struggling to pay for bills. They are small relative to the overall price tag of health reform, but a confident, emphatic stance from the Obama administration in the midst of all of this speculation is a good sign right now for anyone invested (and really at this point who isn’t, despite which side you might stand on?) in health reform.
I won’t see tomorrow night’s program—I’ll be in a plane, trying really hard not to catch anything since I do that like it’s my job—but I look forward to reading about it. As recent events illustrate, it should be an…interesting evening.