New Sinema Bill Protects Seniors’ Ability to Access Critical Medicines

Jan 16, 2024

Sinema’s Seniors’ Access to Critical Medicines Act makes it easier for seniors with cancer and other serious illnesses to get their prescription medicine from their doctor’s office by mail, courier, or picked up by a caregiver

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to reverse harmful Medicare policies that make it harder for a doctor’s office to mail prescription medication to seriously ill cancer patients or allow caregivers to pick prescriptions up for the patient through on-site pharmacies. The Seniors’ Access to Critical Medicines Act allows patients to pick up their medicines at their medical appointment rather than make a separate trip to the pharmacy, caregivers to pick up medications if the patient is too sick to travel to the doctor’s office, or doctors to mail medicines to patients in rural areas.

“We’re making it easier for seniors and patients with serious illnesses to access the medication they need by reversing a harmful Medicare policy that harms patients’ ability to get their medicines through the mail or to have a loved one pick it up at the doctor’s office if they are too sick to travel,” said Sinema, lead sponsor of the Seniors’ Access to Critical Medicines Act.

Sinema’s bipartisan bill would ensure Medicare beneficiaries’ timely access to life-saving medicines, such as cancer drugs, by granting doctors the authority to allow caregivers to pick-up loved ones’ medication, or mail medication to rural patients who cannot travel – making clear that doing so does not violate federal law.

Many doctors’ offices caring for seriously ill patients, like oncology clinics, will partner or run an on-site pharmacy to help cancer patients access their critical medicines. While Medicare rules (known as Stark law) allow a doctor to dispense prescription medications from an on-site pharmacy if the patient picks up the medication in person, a doctor’s office cannot mail, courier, or allow a caregiver to pick up the medicines on behalf of the patient under Stark rules. These rules were temporarily lifted during the pandemic to help patients access their medications, but has since expired. The Seniors’ Access to Critical Medicines Act amends section 1877 of the Social Security Act to clarify that doctors’ offices delivering medicines by mail or allowing a family member to pick up medicines on behalf of a patient does not violate Stark law.