By Vivian Berryhill
(TriceEdneyWire.com) - As Congress works to reduce the deficit, the National Coalition of Pastors’ Spouses (NCPS), asks that it protects the Federal Medicare program. Without a doubt, drastic spending cuts and reforms will have a negative impact on the millions of Americans who rely on this critical program for access to quality care and affordable medicines.
Millions of residents rely on Medicare to help with their health care needs, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare works for America, and should be protected because the program provides seniors, low-income minorities and disabled Americans with access to affordable treatments and medicines.
Medicare Part D, also known as a Prescription Drug Plan, was created under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (2003 Medicare Act) to help cover the costs of prescription drugs for patients and seniors. Before the health care reform law was passed, Medicare Part D patients who reached a certain level of spending on prescription medications, known as the Part D coverage gap or “donut hole,” were required to pay 100 percent of the cost of their drugs out-of-pocket until their spending reached a level qualifying them for catastrophic coverage.
Regardless of your opinion of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a ObamaCare, under this new law, the "donut hole" has the potential to start to close. This particular portion of the Affordable Care Act will cut the cost of prescription drugs for millions of people with Medicare, including a new 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs for seniors and people with disabilities who experience the coverage gap.
That change means preventative care and adherence to prescription drug recommendations by providers for this population segment will only get better. Spending cuts that negatively impact patient access to care will only make worse the problem of rising health care costs in the long run.
CMS has expressed concern that doctors, and other health care providers might leave the Medicare program as a result of such extreme cuts. As pastors' spouses, we are concerned that this would mean ration care, and remove choices and lower the of quality services for seniors, low-income minority families and people with disabilities.
It is no secret that low-income Americans, members of racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and other underserved populations often face limited access to health care and experience poorer health outcomes across their lifespan.
For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African-Americans and Hispanics have significantly lower influenza and pneumococcal immunization rates compared to the rest of the population. Older Americans in these underserved populations are also less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy.
People of color experience higher rates of many chronic conditions (such as heart disease and diabetes), as well as higher death rates from many of these conditions compared to the general population. The National Coalition of Pastors' Spouses believe that by tweaking the health care delivery process and improving the current health care payment system, in addition to placing more emphasis on preventative care––using neighborhood churches and other trusted grassroots community facilities as health hubs––are the real keys to reducing health care costs!
Mrs. Vivian Berryhill is the founder and president of the National Coalition of Pastors’ Spouses (NCPS). Formed in January 2001, NCPS’ goal is to raise education and awareness levels in minority communities, as well as improve risk identification for diseases and social ills that detrimentally impact the minority community.