Medicare Part D's success helps us all

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 23 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:12 am in
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By Jim Swanstrom

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Medical researchers just made a huge discovery that could fundamentally transform the way we treat Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers recently linked 21 new genes to the illness. This connection holds the promise of a new, more effective treatment — or even a cure — for this dreaded disease. Fortunately, medical breakthroughs are on the horizon for other diseases such as diabetes, cancer and arthritis.

One program has been particularly effective at fueling cutting-edge research into new treatments for major conditions: Medicare Part D, the federal prescription drug benefit. Turning 10 years old this month, Part D provides access to affordable drugs for millions of Americans. And in so doing, this program has encouraged and enabled massive investment in biopharmaceutical research.

Since its inception, Part D has been a success. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports that during the program’s first decade, Part D has cost

45 percent less than initially projected.

Coming in significantly under budget is unprecedented for a government program of this size.

Part D is also an exceptionally good deal for its more than 300,000 enrollees in Iowa. This year, the average insurance plan offered through Part D will cost just $31 each month. In a time of spiraling medical costs, the program’s average premium has risen just $1 annually during the past four years.

In addition to getting seniors the drugs they need to remain healthy and active, Part D has expanded the pharmaceutical market and boosted drug research. Indeed, just last year, the major pharmaceutical manufacturers reinvested more than 20 percent of their total domestic sales — $48.5 billion — into new research.

As a result, the number of promising new drug treatments in the research pipeline never has been higher. Biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 465 medicines targeting the top 10 chronic conditions affecting American seniors, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

A decade in, Medicare Part D is improving access to critical medications for seniors — here in Iowa and all across the country.

And the program has proved to be a boon for the sophisticated medical research needed to create the next generation of breakthrough drugs for some of the country’s most devastating diseases.

l Jim Swanstrom is president and CEO of Community Health Charities Iowa. Comments: jswanstrom@healthcharities.org

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