A decade ago, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was tasked with designing a way for seniors to receive affordable, high-quality prescription drugs without having to rely on private insurers.
The effort was led by former CMS director David Schultz, who was nominated to serve as undersecretary of health by President Donald Trump.
It would have required Medicare to purchase generic drugs from one of the nation’s largest generic drug makers.
The program has never come to fruition, and it has left many seniors on the sidelines.
Schultz was the first former CMS official to lead the Medicare program.
He served as CMS director from October 2015 until he resigned in January 2017 amid reports of rampant fraud and abuse.
Schulz had been leading the Medicare plan since 2016, when it was unveiled in a $500 billion bill passed by Congress in December 2017.
The new Medicare program would have provided prescription drug coverage for seniors with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $14,060 for a single person in 2018 and $36,700 for a family of four.
It was designed to help prevent Medicare from falling behind other health care providers in paying for drugs and other services, especially prescription drugs.
The bill included funding for Medicare Advantage plans, which cover seniors with private health insurance, but Medicare would have been left to make its own decision on who would get a drug.
That would have created an incentive for seniors who were unable to afford prescription drugs to take them from a private insurer.
Schmidt resigned in 2018 amid revelations that Medicare Advantage drug plans were routinely falsifying data.
Schutz, a Harvard University doctor who had previously served in senior health care, testified before Congress that the Medicare drug program was an “expensive and wasteful way to fund health care,” but critics questioned his qualifications for leading the health care agency tasked with making sure the program could work.
Schumpets nomination to head the Medicare prescription drug program failed to clear the Senate, which has not taken up the legislation in almost a decade.
But the Medicare proposal was resurrected by Trump in his 2018 State of the Union address, calling for a Medicare-as-a-premium drug program that would be run by the Centers in consultation with Medicare and other government agencies.
Schweitzer also was the architect of the Affordable Care Act, which provided health care for seniors and the disabled, which would have expanded Medicare to include prescription drugs as well.
The bill was ultimately signed into law.
Schuckers nomination was approved by the Senate last month, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as its lead Democrat.
Schwartz is the first person to lead Medicare since former Health and Human Services Secretary David Shulkin was named undersecretaries.