POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Congressmen work for seniors

One local congressman worked this week to save seniors money, while another was honored for his advocacy.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall received the Guardian of Seniors’ Rights Award from the 60 Plus Association.

“I am honored to receive the Guardian of Seniors’ Rights Award,” Woodall said of his first official award as a member of Congress. “Our social safety nets for seniors are in trouble. I was proud to support the FY 2012 ‘Path to Prosperity’ Budget Proposal, which offers viable long-term solutions for Medicare and Social Security while preserving current benefit levels for seniors 55 and older.”

The Lawrenceville Republican, who took office earlier this year, said he would continue to work for “conservative solutions to the problems that currently ail this great nation.”

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but this award provides an opportunity to celebrate what the 112th Congress has achieved thus far,” he said. This award also serves as a reminder that we still have so much more to do. I will continue fighting hard on behalf of the seniors and all those residing in my district, and I am grateful for all of the support that I have received.”

Woodall received his award on Thursday, and the day before, his colleague Rep. Hank Johnson sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about the cost-sharing requirements of Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

Johnson, a Democrat, was concerned about a system known as “specialty tiers,” used to classify high-cost drugs. The system, he said, Medicare forces recipients to pay up to 33 percent of a drug’s cost that exceeds $600, as opposed to charging seniors a fixed co-pay amount similar to those used for generic or preferred brand drugs. Johnson is concerned the $600 threshold is being held to artificially low levels without explanation or transparency.

“The tier system can force seniors to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket for life-saving prescriptions,” said Johnson, who is a member of the House Seniors Task Force. “My concern is that seniors are being priced out by this arbitrary threshold and it could in some cases force seniors to choose between medications and putting food on the table or paying bills.”

In the letter, Johnson requests CMS to explain why the specialty tier drug limit is frozen at $600, to clarify the process for the sake of transparency and to analyze the effect freezing the threshold at $600 will have on seniors.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via email at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.