Chicago attorney Howard Ankin has lent his support to the more than 200 groups who have voiced opposition to proposed changes to Medicare Part D. Under the change, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed eliminating the protected status of antidepressant and immunosuppressant drug classes. That means the drugs would not be required to be covered under Medicare Part D.
Mr. Ankin, who is an attorney in the Chicago firm Ankin Law Office, says that the component dealing with antidepressant drugs could be devastating for the elderly and those who are on Social Security disability. He said, “Depression is a crippling disease that is prevalent among the elderly and the disabled. Limiting their access to antidepressants would likely lead to even more severe medical issues.”
In a letter to CMS, more than 200 groups voiced those same concerns. Groups like Easter Seals, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association signed a letter on Feb. 18 to CMS asking the agency to pull the proposed changes. A group of Republican senators also sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her to intervene and stop the proposal.
CMS says the changes will save $1.3 billion between 2015 and 2019. However, critics say any savings realized by CMS will be offset by increased health care costs elsewhere. Mental health advocates say that depression is a chronic illness and that a lack of medication often exacerbates other issues. Individuals who are forced to go without medication may face increased therapy, visits to emergency rooms, or even longer stays in healthcare facilities.
Howard Ankin agrees. He said that he’s seen the effects that chronic depression can have on a person’s ability to function. He hopes that CMS will reconsider the proposal. Comments on the proposal close on March 7 and CMS will make a decision on the changes sometime after that date.