Archive for October, 2009

Say It Ain’t So, Joe

We hear that Senator Lieberman is prepared to join Republicans to filibuster against health care reform if it includes a public option.  We can’t understand our Senator’s position.  

The Center for Medicare Advocacy is a Connecticut-based organization with over 30 Connecticut employees.  We have worked for decades to advance fair access to health coverage and care for residents of  Connecticut.  We have seen the painful ramifications when Medicare private plans came and went from Connecticut – leaving tremendous  financial and emotional costs in their wake.  In one case, a Medicare beneficiary died at a forum about a private Medicare plan that was leaving Connecticut!  We were there. 

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said when he announced Monday that the bill he will bring to the Senate floor will include a public option, “I’ve concluded … that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt-out provision for states. .. The public option, with an opt-out, is the one that’s fair.” ( Read more here.)

The public option is necessary to provide fair access to quality health coverage at a price taxpayers can afford.  We know that from Medicare.  We know that in Connecticut.  We urge our Senator to rethink his position. 

October 27, 2009 at 9:46 pm 2 comments

So Far, So Good!

We post below announcements from Senator Chris Dodd and Majority Leader Harry Reid about the inclusion of a public option in the merged Senate health care reform bill.  Why?  Because this is the latest news from key Senate leaders and, because this is good news for people in need of health coverage – and for taxpayers.   Maybe right will yet prevail over might.   We dare to hope.

DODD STATEMENT ON PUBLIC OPTION

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) released the following statement today after Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the health care reform legislation will include a strong public option.

 “I fought for a strong public option – in the HELP Committee and in this merger process – because it is the best way to keep costs low and insurance companies honest,” said Dodd.  “Majority Leader Reid has made a bold and right choice to endorse the HELP Committee public option, along with a provision allowing states to opt out.  At its core, health care reform is about making insurance more stable and affordable for those who have it, and available to those who don’t, while improving quality and lowering costs.  I believe that the public option is a key component to successful reform, and I will continue to lead the fight for it on the Senate floor.”

Note:  Senator Dodd led the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee earlier this summer when it approved the Affordable Health Choices Act, which included the strong public option that will be included in the final health care bill.

AND, FROM MAJORITY LEADER, SENATOR HARRY REID

“The last two weeks have been a great opportunity to work with the White House, Senators Baucus and Dodd, and members of our Caucus on this critical issue of reforming our health insurance system. We have had productive, meaningful discussions about how to craft the strongest bill that can gain the 60 votes necessary to move forward in the Senate. I feel good about progress we have made within our caucus and with the White House, and we are all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that exists. 

I am well aware that the issue of the public option has been a source of great discussion in recent weeks.    I have always been a strong supporter of the public option.  While the public option is not a silver bullet, I believe it is an important way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients. 

 As we’ve gone through this process, I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators Baucus and Dodd, that the best way forward is to include a public option with an opt-out provision for states.   Under this concept, states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt-out. 

I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system.  It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition and that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration. 

We have spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with Senators who have shown a genuine desire to see reform succeed, and I believe there is strong consensus to move forward in this direction.  Today’s developments bring us another step closer to achieving our goal of passing a bill this year that lowers costs, preserves choice, creates competition and improves quality of care.” 

October 26, 2009 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

Barry Sussman: Getting Ready for Health Care Reform – a 100+% Part D Increase! Way to Go, AdvantraRx.

BarrySussmanmugA certain person I know got a big packet, maybe 300 pages or more, from AdvantraRx, a Medicare Part D insurer, the other day.

Most of the news was on one page. It said the monthly fee was going up by 68.98 percent in 2010. It didn’t say it in so many words; we had to figure out the percentages on our own. But that was easy. The increase was from $24.50 a month to $41.40 a month.

The annual increase is even higher – it’s more than 100 percent. That’s because AdvantraRx added a $100 annual deductible to the policy, where there was no deductible in 2009. (The arithmetic: 2009 annually, $294. 2010 annually, $496.80 plus $100=$596.80, or an increase of 102.99 percent.)

Now I know there are people who would love to have a Part D bill that size. Many Americans need multiple, expensive medications and crash into doughnut hole expenses. Their health stories are a lot worse and their fees much steeper. From my perspective, this increase is an annoying bite but not much more.

But look at it from the insurers’ point of view: Is this a breakthrough achievement for AfvantraRx or what?! All or almost all the major firms must be raising rates a lot for 2010. They always raise rates and now they’ve got an extra incentive – positioning themselves to be ready for health care reform. But still, a 102.99 percent increase from one year to the next, that’s something special. AdvantraRx must be proud. They’re so gutsy, they won’t even slow down when everybody is looking at them.

There’s one more thing. Somewhere in the packet it states that Medicare has approved this rate increase.

Read more at the Nieman Watchdog Blog.

October 22, 2009 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Dear Senator Dodd

We have avoided adding to the myriad requests we know you  must be getting now that you are helping to develop a final Senate health care reform bill. But, it’s quickly becoming now or never, so we write about two of our main concerns:

  1. The Center for Medicare Advocacy is concerned about the Medicare Commission that the White House seems to envision and that the Finance Committee passed.  While we understand the value of a payment commission from some points of view, we, and others who represent Medicare beneficiaries, are terribly concerned about provisions that would essentially empower an unelected Commission to cap Medicare funding.  There is no justification for such unilateral Medicare cost-containment. (Except regarding private Medicare Advantage.  We have been stating, and will continue to explain, that cuts to the outlandish, wasteful Medicare Advantage subsidies are completely justified.) A Commission empowered to cap overall Medicare funding threatens the future of the traditional Medicare program and is dangerous to older and disabled people. This is sadly ironic since such a Commission could essentially create the very kind of privatized, capped Medicare program that Newt Gingrich envisioned when he said that, “while we may not be able to kill Medicare, we can make it wither on the vine”. 
  2. As you know, the Center for Medicare Advocacy is highly supportive of a real public option in health care reform.  We are grateful for your active support for this key component of true reform. We know all too well how private Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans have often abused the system, profited the insurance industry, and endangered the financial well-being of traditional Medicare. To replicate this system by having a private – only – health care reform system is simply to repeat history and to once again give away taxpayer dollars to big industry. 

Thank you for all you are doing to bring health care access to all and reason to the health care system. Please let us  know if we can help.

October 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm Leave a comment

Thank You, Senator Snowe

Senator Snowe (Rep. Maine) and all Committee Democrats voted in favor of the health care reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee today.  No other Republicans voted for the bill.  While the Finance Committee bill is not the bill we would like in the end, its passage moves us closer to health care reform. 

Senator Snowe acted in the tradition of a true lawmaker, putting what is best for the country above partisanship. Thank you, Senator,  for your vote – and for your integrity.

October 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm 1 comment

Health Care Reform With a Public Option … And Without

ApplesAndOranges

October 11, 2009 at 4:09 am Leave a comment

Senator Dodd Will “Fight For a Strong Public Option”

Senator Chris Dodd (Dem. Conn) posted this statement on Daily Kos in advance of the meetings he will have with Senator Baucus, Senator Reid, and the White House next week in order to hash out a compromise health care bill to send on to the full Senate. He sent his editorial on to us for CMA’s health policy blog.  At the request of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Dodd  chaired the Senate HELP Committee’s work leading to passage of  a health care reform bill in July.

“A Moment To Be Bold
By SenChrisDodd <http://senchrisdodd.dailykos.com>
Fri Oct 09, 2009

Next week, I’ll sit down with Majority Leader Reid, Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, and the White House to merge together the provisions of the two health care bills that have been passed by Senate committees.

I’ll be there as the representative of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, but I know that I’m also carrying with me the responsibility of speaking up on behalf of millions of passionate activists – without whose efforts we wouldn’t have a President who has made reform a top priority, not to mention enough Democrats in Congress to pass a bill.

I understand that many of you are worried about what that bill will look like.  I know first-hand how frustrating it has been to watch good ideas clash with political realities, especially on such an important issue.

The HELP and Finance Committees worked on different pieces of the bigger reform puzzle.  My committee passed strong prevention, quality, workforce and long-term services and supports measures.  Finance worked to strengthen Medicare and help small businesses afford and purchase health insurance for their workers.

Sometimes, our two committees overlapped.  We both agree that insurance companies shouldn’t be allowed to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, discriminate against women or the elderly, implement annual or lifetime caps on the benefits you can receive, or take away your coverage when you need it most.

That’s something we all agree on – and that’s a pretty good place to start from as we merge our two bills.

But we have come too far, and worked too hard, to settle for “pretty good.”  And that’s why I plan to take a stand.

First, and let me be very clear about this: I am going to fight for a strong public option.  The simple, undeniable fact is that a public option will save money – and it will introduce more choice and competition into an industry that badly needs both.  It is the single best way to keep costs low for middle class families – and keep the insurance companies honest.  And I am by no means ready to back down on making that argument.

There are some other issues to hash out, as well.  I believe that we should require everyone to get health insurance, just as we require everyone to get auto insurance.  But I also believe that it is unfair to burden middle class families with a mandate they can’t afford.  I think the HELP bill has especially strong provisions to keep costs low and quality high, and I think they’re worth fighting for.

When we sit down with the White House to merge these bills, it will be an historic moment – one more unprecedented step towards finally overcoming the well-financed special interests and achieving the reform that has eluded us for more than 60 years.  It will be a moment to celebrate how far we have come – but also a moment to be bold as we take the final steps towards reform.

It will be a negotiation, and I can’t promise that every disagreement will be resolved in our favor.

But I can promise that I will walk into that room prepared to fight for a strong public option, affordability provisions that protect the middle class, and common-sense protections to keep the insurance companies honest and guarantee that every American family can choose a health care plan that’s right for them.

The finish line is within sight.  And I, for one, am ready to hit it running.”

October 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

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