Archive for February, 2010

A Note to Republicans about Medicare and Health Care Reform

We at the Center for Medicare Advocacy listened to the concerns you expressed about Medicare at the Health Care Summit on February 25.  Unfortunately, your descriptions of what happens to Medicare in the House, Senate, and President’s proposals does not accord with what the proposals actually do.

We want to remind you of some facts about Medicare and the healthcare bills that were passed by the Senate and the House and that are proposed by President Obama.

  • None of the proposals cuts Medicare benefits
    • What Medicare covers today will be covered after legislation is enacted.
    • Coverage is actually enhanced adding coverage of an annual exam.
  • Costs to Medicare beneficiaries are reduced by:
    • Eliminating cost-sharing for preventive services,
    • Reducing the Part D donut hole,
    • Limiting the cost-sharing Medicare Advantage plans may charge.
  • Quality of care received by Medicare beneficiaries is improved through:
    • The addition of new delivery systems to coordinate care,
    • The reduction of unnecessary hospital readmissions.
  • Cuts to Medicare Advantage plans reduce waste in the Medicare program by cutting unnecessary overpayments to private insurance companies.
    • Medicare Advantage plans are paid, on average 14% more that Medicare would spend if the beneficiary were in the traditional Medicare program.
  • Overall, the savings to Medicare extend the life of the Part A Trust fund by 9 years.

Please, when you talk about Medicare to your constituents, get the facts straight and stop scaring Medicare beneficiaries.  On the whole, Medicare beneficiaries stand to benefit if health reform as proposed is enacted.

Republicans express concern about cuts to Medicare, but their actions don’t always follow their concerns.  Republican Senator Jim Bunning from Kentucky is currently filibustering a bill that would delay the 21% cut in Medicare payments to physicians that is to take effect on Monday, March 1, 2010.  If the payment cut is not addressed, many doctors indicate that they will stop accepting new Medicare payments in their practice.  Instead of protecting Medicare, Senator Bunning’s actions will reduce access to doctors for the 44 million people who rely on the Medicare program.

February 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm 1 comment

The “R” in COBRA: It’s Time to Use It Again

Everyone knows about COBRA.  It’s the law that allows people who lose employer-sponsored health insurance to purchase the insurance they previously had.  Because COBRA prevents some people from being uninsured, Congress even set aside money in the Stimulus Package passed in 2009 to help some people who lost their job buy their COBRA coverage.

But not everyone knows that the “R” in COBRA stands for Reconciliation.  The COBRA health care continuation provisions were enacted as part of the Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985.  In other words, this important health care protection came into being through the budgetary process that is now being discussed as a mechanism for enacting meaningful health insurance reform.

Some people argue that reconciliation can’t be used for health insurance reform; that reconciliation can only be used to “reconcile” income and spending with the income and spending levels established in the President’s annual budget. But Congress has often used budget reconciliation as a vehicle for making changes to existing policy; COBRA is not the only health bill that was enacted through this process.

Budget reconciliation has been used to establish protections for nursing home residents; extend insurance coverage to workers and dependents who lose employer-sponsored coverage; create a health insurance program for children; expand the role of private insurance offerings in Medicare; and change Medicaid eligibility. Given these precedents, budget reconciliation can be used to create health care reform that will:

  • Expand health insurance to 31 million Americans;
  • Make insurance more affordable for everyone, including closing the Part D donut hole for Medicare beneficiaries;
  • Protect against discriminatory practices by insurers;
  • Reduce fraud and waste; and,
  • From a budgetary perspective, reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years.

Congress will need to consider its next steps to enacting meaningful health insurance reform after the White House bipartisan meeting on health care on February 25.  It’s time for Congress to remember the “R” in COBRA continuation insurance stands for “reconciliation,” and to use the same reconciliation process to extend health insurance protections to all Americans.

February 24, 2010 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

Fool Me Once…

Newt Gingrich, staunch supporter of Medicare?  That’s why he’s opposed to health care reform?  If you read just the opening paragraph of Paul Krugman’s February 12, 2010 Op-Ed article, you might believe this.  Well, you might believe it if you haven’t been paying attention to anything Gingrich and his fellow conservatives have been doing for the last couple of decades.

Gingrich himself is the man who enthusiastically declared in 1995, as Republicans pushed for Draconian cuts to the Medicare program, that Medicare would thus “wither on the vine.”

Yet, here we are 15 years later, and Mr. Gingrich is crying, according to Krugman, that “the reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong.”

No, Mr. Gingrich, what’s wrong is the gall of hypocrites who will grasp any tactic to frighten people and fight the real health care reform our country so desperately needs.

February 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm Leave a comment


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