Christine Stuart photo
Connecticut Congressmen Joe Courtney, D-2, and Chris Murphy, D-5, announced their intention Tuesday to introduce legislation that improves the Medicare Part D drug program authored by former Congresswoman Nancy Johnson.

Instead of making Medicare Part D work for the drug and insurance industry, the two Congressmen said they are proposing a comprehensive plan aimed at consumers.

How?

Murphy said their plan would allow Medicare to offer its own drug formulary plan, which will create competition with the 51 private plans currently offered in Connecticut by the program. He said by buying in bulk the government will be able to offer a better deal.

Courtney said their plan would also eliminate the late-enrollment penalties and asset test. In addition it will provide in-person hearings for those seeking to appeal a Medicare decision.

Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., said at the moment the appeals are heard via video-conference, usually from a business like a Kinko’s. She said it’s not the same as an “actual in-person hearing.”

She said each plan sets its own formulary, so no one size fits all, which makes Medicare Part D benefits difficult to explain to a room of seniors. “Now we have to sit down with each person to help them make the proper choice,” she said.

This legislation responds to the “real needs of real people,” Stein said.

Click here for the press release.

Does Their Political Future Hinge on This Bill?

Murphy and Courtney seemed to dismiss the notion that if this Medicare Part D reform doesn’t pass they won’t be re-elected.

The two campaigned heavily on the issue for at least two years. In addition both had been chairman of the state legislature’s Public Health Committee and have a good understanding of the problems created by the drug program. Courtney helped create the state wrap-around program for people in the state who fall into the Medicare drug coverage gap.

“I look at it as our responsibility to address the needs of our constituents,” Murphy said. “This to me isn’t about politics. It’s about doing the right thing.”

Courtney agreed. He said he doesn’t analyze this in terms of his political survival. He said this is one of the most important issues the new Democratic Congress will address.