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What Americans Need to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

From NewsweekSeptember 14, 2015By Kenneth Thorpe, Chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic DiseaseAmerica's seniors ought to wish Medicare a happy 50th birthday. Continued improvements to the federal health care insurance program cut the Medicare patient mortality rate 16 percent—the equivalent of 300,000 deaths per year—from 1999 to 2013.A large part of the decreased mortality is due to Medicare "Part D," which offers prescription drug coverage to 37 million seniors. In an effort to cut costs, some lawmakers want to retire the model that has enabled Part D to achieve a 90 percent satisfaction rating and come in $350 billion under budget.Altering Part D would be a disaster for seniors, and would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the fight against America's biggest killer: chronic disease. Congress should strengthen Part D—not cripple it.Chronic disease is a pervasive national problem. More than 90 percent of older Americans have a chronic condition and over 70 percent have at least two. Part D helps seniors manage chronic afflictions by making cutting-edge medicines affordable. Without the program, over half of seniors report that they'd be "likely to cut back or stop taking medicine altogether."Fortunately, this access doesn't come at budget-busting prices. Monthly premiums for the program in 2016 are expected to be an affordable $32.50—the cost of premiums has barely risen over the last five years.By helping seniors manage their chronic conditions, Part D stops illness from spiraling out of control. That avoids costly hospitalizations and nursing home stays and lowers total Medicare spending by $12 billion annually, according to a JAMA study.  Access to medications due to Part D have resulted in 200,000 Medicare patients living at least one year longer.   Part D accounts for just 14 percent of Medicare's budget but is responsible for 75 percent of Medicare's projected savings over the next decade.Read the full article.