On October 17, 2019, the House Ways & Means Committee held a hearing entitled “Investing in the U.S. Health System by Lowering Drug Prices, Reducing Out-of-Pocket Costs, and Improving Medicare Benefits.” The hearing focused on H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (discussed in a previous Alert), as well as current gaps in Medicare coverage that could be filled using savings from lowering drug costs in Medicare.
Dr. Judith Feder, Professor at McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, and the President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, was invited to testify about needed improvements to the Medicare program (her written testimony is available here). Dr. Feder’s testimony focused on the need to address four gaps in Medicare coverage:
- Out-of-pocket costs Medicare beneficiaries face;
- Specific gaps in benefits, including dental, hearing, vision and long-term services and supports;
- Administrative barriers or biases, including diminishing access to the home health benefit, observation status, inappropriate steering towards Medicare Advantage plans coupled with the lack of access to Medigap plans; and
- Investments to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Medicare program, including the need for more revenue.
At the same time as the Ways & Means hearing, the House Energy & Commerce committee marked up H.R. 3 and a suite of bills that would add improvements to the Medicare program. The House Education & Labor Committee also marked up H.R. 3.
The Center wrote letters of support for H.R. 3 and the Medicare-related bills, with suggested improvements to the Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce Committees.