Rep. Harshbarger Introduces the Seniors' Access to Critical Medications Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Yesterday, Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger introduced the bipartisan Seniors' Access to Critical Medications Act, which would make permanent a waiver issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that allowed for Medicare patients to receive critical medications by mail, or allow for caregivers and family members to obtain medications for them.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), CMS allowed for independent physicians to mail medications directly to their patients, or have them delivered by a family member or caregiver, if a Medicare patient was unable to be present in the office. CMS has ruled that the end of the COVID-19 PHE marks the end of such policies. Consequently, many patients in need of critical medicines, many of whom are cancer patients, lack the means to receive their prescriptions in a timely manner from their healthcare provider.

For many patients, especially in rural communities, a trip to one's doctor entails a long journey and puts patients at risk who don't have access to reliable transportation, or are otherwise too ill to safely travel. This legislation would allow for patients to have medications delivered to them via the mail, or by those overseeing their care.

In April of 2023, Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger sent a bipartisan letter, signed by 53 Members of Congress, to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Beccerra and Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, urging them to address this issue.

"Burdensome and unnecessary CMS policies should not force patients, especially our seniors, to take an arduous journey or have their access to critical medications threatened," said Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger. "My bill, the Seniors' Access to Critical Medications Act, will modernize Medicare, promote patient safety and ensure that seniors, cancer patients, and those suffering from serious illness are able to receive the medications they need, when they need them. Our government should not be creating obstacles for Medicare patients, and this legislation is a leap forward for Medicare beneficiaries."

This legislation has bipartisan support, being co-introduced by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Donald Davis (D-NC), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), and Tony Balderson (R-OH).

“Increasing access to care is vital, and few places is it more important than for cancer survivors. As a breast cancer survivor, I know the difficult realities that patients, their families, and caregivers face along their journey of survivorship – and my goal is to remove as many as possible,” said Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.  “The Seniors’ Access to Critical Medications Act, which I am proud to co-lead with Rep. Harshbarger, will pull down another obstacle for survivors to access the drugs they need. Our legislation would make it clear that physicians can deliver medicines to their patients by mail without fear of violating federal law, ensuring Medicare beneficiaries have timely access to them. Seniors, cancer survivors, and many others should not have to face additional hurdles to receiving the care and treatment they need, when they need it.”

A summary of the bill can be found here.

Full bill text can be found here.

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