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National Council Lauds Opposition to Policy that would Represent a Huge Digression in Mental Healthcare

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Heather Cobb, heatherc@thenationalcouncil.org, 202.684.7457 x277

February 6, 2014 (Washington DC) — Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee stiffly rebuked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in a letter stating, “concern over the recent proposal to reduce the number of ‘protected classes’ under the Medicare prescription drug benefit” and strongly urged CMS “to continue this important beneficiary protection as it exists today.”

“We applaud every member of the Senate Finance Committee for taking this vitally important stand and wholeheartedly agree with their assessment that if implemented, this proposed change will lead to decreased access to critical medications, especially for those beneficiaries living with mental illness,” said Chuck Ingoglia, Senior Vice President of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Other leading patient advocates representing a broad spectrum of affected disease communities — ranging mental health, substance use, HIV/AIDS, kidney, and epilepsy — fervently agree and questioned CMS’ judgment in promulgating a proposed policy that would undermine the widely-supported Six Protected Classes policy under Medicare Part D.

Others, still, suggested that CMS should be exploring ways to improve beneficiary access to the life-saving drugs they need, rather than developing new means of limiting their availability.

“This proposal is extremely troublesome,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council. “The current policy is working and CMS’ proposed changes would only weaken patient protections for some of the most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries — at a time when we need to strengthen access. This is dangerous.”
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