Schakowsky, Chu Introduce Bill To Help Medicare Beneficiaries Afford Prescription Drugs During COVID-19 Crisis

May 1, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), a Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, introduced the Lower Drug Costs for Seniors During COVID-19 Act. This legislation allows Medicare Part D beneficiaries electing to receive 90-day prescription refills to spread their co-pays over the same 90-day period. This flexibility will be critical to help beneficiaries afford a three-month prescription and lower their out-of-pocket costs during the COVID-19 crisis, improving their lives and livelihood.

Nearly one in four Americans taking prescription drugs report struggling to afford their prescriptions, and one in ten Americans say they have rationed their medication due to skyrocketing drug prices. Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress required Medicare Part D plans to provide up to a 90-day supply of a prescription medication if requested by a beneficiary during the COVID-19 emergency period. This new law helps beneficiaries to lower their risk of exposure to coronavirus by reducing the frequency of their visits to a pharmacy. However, monthly prescription co-pays are often already unaffordable, making the higher co-pay for a three month supply potentially prohibitively expensive. Representative Schakowsky and Chu’s new bill would spread out these costs, improving the financial security of Part D beneficiaries during a pandemic that has been economically challenging for so many Americans.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all Americans, but has taken a heavy toll on older Americans and people with disabilities. As many Medicare beneficiaries struggle with job loss or other financial burdens during COVID-19, they should not have to choose between exposing themselves to coronavirus and being able to afford their medications,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Our new legislation ensures that beneficiaries can get the three-month prescription they need to stay safe and healthy at home without having to pay for the additional supply upfront.”

“In order to help seniors stay safe and healthy during this coronavirus crisis, Congress made a change to allow seniors with Medicare Part D plans to fill three months’ worth of a prescription. This limits pharmacy visits while giving older Americans confidence they will not run out of necessary drugs. That’s’ why we cannot let cost become a needless obstacle. Our bill is a simple fix that allows patients to pay their copays over the course of a prescription instead of having to forego other expenses in order to pay the cost up front,” said Congresswoman Chu.

The Lower Drug Costs for Seniors During COVID-19 Act is supported by the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Families USA, the Medicare Rights Center, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

“The Lower Drug Costs for Seniors During COVID-19 Act is a common sense strategy to provide added safety and relief for seniors during the pandemic crisis. This bill will make it easier for seniors to take advantage of the new law that allows seniors to get three-month refills under Medicare Part D by spreading up-front copays over the 90-day period.  This will make it more affordable for seniors to get three months of their medications, allowing them to reduce the frequency of pharmacy visits and stay safely at home. We applaud this legislation for creating another buffer between seniors and the risks and added costs associated with our nation’s health crisis,” said Max Richtman, the President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

“Many older adults live on fixed incomes. This is especially difficult when the current pandemic exacerbates financial and other forms of stress” says Judith Stein, Executive Director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.  “Enabling individuals to stretch out the time during which they must pay copayments or cost-sharing, rather than having to pay for multiple months at once, will certainly help ease their burdens.”

"Families USA is happy to support Lower Drug Costs for Seniors During COVID-19, and we thank Representatives Schakowsky and Chu for their leadership. This legislation is a key step to ensuring financial stability for Medicare enrollees while they face high and rising prescription costs during the COVID-19 emergency,” added Justin Mendoza, Senior Partnerships Manager, Families USA

Bill text can be found HERE.