March 3, 2005
Arlington, Va. – Today the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) joined with other mental health groups in testifying at a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing entitled "Implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act: Delivering Prescription Drugs to Dual Eligibles."
The hearing, convened by committee chair Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), focused on how the new Medicare prescription drug benefit – also known as "Medicare Part D" – will impact Medicaid beneficiaries. Medicaid beneficiaries will be automatically folded into the new program in 2006.
Carl Clark, M.D., a practicing psychiatrist and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver, presented testimony on behalf of the APA, NAMI and others. He urged that special measures be taken to ensure that those with severe mental illnesses will not lose access to their medications as the transition takes place.
"It is distinctly possible that dual eligibles with severe mental illnesses who fail to successfully navigate the transition to the new Part D benefit could end up destitute, homeless or in state prison," testified Dr. Clark.
He also said that restricting access to psychotropic medicines would lead to cost growth in other areas: physician visits, emergency room utilization and inpatient psychiatric hospital admissions.
The APA and NAMI praised Chairman Smith for using the hearing to highlight key issues that could face patients.
His full testimony can be found at: http://www.psych.org/advocacy_policy/leg_res/apa_testimony/20050303ClarkTestimonyonMMA.pdf.
The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society, founded in 1844, whose more than 36,000 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses including substance use disorders. For more information, visit the APA Web site at www.psych.org.
NAMI is a nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families, and friends of people with severe mental illness. NAMI works to achieve equitable services and treatment for more than 15 million Americans living with severe mental illness and their families. For more information, visit the NAMI Web site at www.nami.org.
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