(Recasts lead, adds details and background)
WASHINGTON, March 10 The Obama administration on
Monday pulled back from possible changes to the popular Medicare
Part D prescription drug program, saying it would not finalize
proposals that have spawned fierce opposition from a broad
coalition of interests.
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said in a letter to
members of Congress that her agency had decided not to move
forward at present. She said it would instead seek further input
from stakeholders with the prospect of revisiting changes "in
Lawmakers of both parties have joined insurers, drug makers,
pharmacy chains and consumer advocacy groups to express
misgivings about the proposals and warn that the changes could
limit choices for Part D's 36 million elderly and disabled
CMS officials have said the changes are necessary to head
off future cost increases.
Part D provides drug benefits through private insurers. In
January, the administration proposed altering the program by
removing three drug classes from "protected" status, broadening
pharmacy networks in some plans and limiting the choice of plans
in any given region.
Insurers are required to cover all drugs in a protected
The proposed changes had been expected to go into effect in
coming months and would also have affected drug coverage under
Medicare Advantage, which allows beneficiaries to obtain major
Medicare benefits through private insurers.
"Given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder
input, we do not plan to finalize these proposals at this
time. We will engage in further stakeholder input before
advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future
years," Tavenner said in a letter sent on Monday to members of
the Senate and House of Representatives.
She said CMS would move forward with proposals designed to
combat fraud, promote transparency and ensure access to care in
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and