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The Opposition Will Vote No Anyway – So Stick With Good Health Care Reform!

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has today given the proponents of strong health care reform a huge gift:  he has admitted that it does not matter what the content of any bill is.  Even if the final bill contains everything he wants, he will vote against it.

Senator Grassley has laid bare the strategy of opponents of health care reform:  defeat the legislation regardless of its content.  Since the Senator is one of the more powerful and moderate voices of the Republican party in Congress, it seems unlikely that further efforts at bipartisan negotiations will yield fruitful results.

This is a gift to proponents for a true public option – the only path to true health care reform.  Nothing is to be gained by abandoning the President’s commitment to a strong public plan in health reform that would be available nationwide, would be entirely portable and would keep the private insurance market honest by providing innovation and competition where little competition exists today.  (Most private insurance markets are dominated by two companies:  Wellpoint and United Healthcare.)

We urge policy-makers to remember the truth amidst all the noise.  We need health care reform.  We need a true public option!

August 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm 3 comments

Medicare for All?

This morning I showed my brand spanking new Medicare card to my 27-year old uninsured son, Patrick.

He looked the card over carefully and said “I wish I had one of these.”

June 23, 2009 at 2:53 pm 1 comment

The Cart Before The Horse?

It’s time to change the conversation about health care reform from protecting private insurance companies to protecting the American people. Senator Charles Schumer is quoted in today’s New York Times as saying any public plan included in health care reform must comply with private insurance requirements.

Senator Schumer has it backwards. Since when is health care for Americans about making things work for private, profit-making insurance companies? Isn’t the moral imperative to provide for the medical needs of American citizens? If we are looking to equalize public and private offerings, how about eliminating profits for private companies, requiring standardized benefits, notices, appeal rights, and full due process, with full and complete access by the public to all their records – as would be the case with a public plan.

May 5, 2009 at 4:57 pm 1 comment

What Kind of Help is That?

Medicare beneficiaries are fighting back against decades of delays in processing benefits that have caused them to make hard choices between health care and other necessities of life. 

66 year old Narcisa Garcia, a resident of Pennsylvania, lives on $695 a month, just about 75% of the federal poverty rate.  Paying her Medicare Part B premium reduces her tiny income to $599 per month.  Yet Ms. Garcia should not have to pay her Part B premium; she is one of millions of low income Medicare beneficiaries entitled to help from one of the programs that pays for Medicare cost-sharing.  Although she is eligible for benefits from Pennsylvania going back to November 2008, six months later, in April 2009, she is still paying her Part B premium.  Some people may be able afford to float loans to the federal government, but not those living on less than $700 a month.

On April 24th, Ms. Garcia and another Medicare beneficiary, together with two advocacy organizations filed suit against the federal government and the state of Pennsylvania claiming that the harmful and illegal delays in processing enrollments for benefits denied them their rights under federal law. Narcisa Garcia, et al. v. Charles E. Johnson, et al. 2:09-cv-01747 (AB) E.D. Pa. (Complaint filed April 24, 2009). 

The programs to help low-income beneficiaries have existed since the beginning of Medicare and Medicaid, in 1965, but were beefed up in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Medicare cost-sharing increased significantly. For decades, they have suffered from serious delays in processing enrollments that leave people footing their own bills for months or even years after they have been found eligible for the benefits. 

The Center for Medicare Advocacy and the Philadelphia-based Community Legal Services are representing the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to recognize the case as a class action, to declare the government’s practices illegal, to require that benefits are provided promptly, to notify beneficiaries of delays in processing, and to notify beneficiaries that they might be entitled to a refund of back benefits.  They are asking, in other words, that the programs do what they are supposed to do: help people.

April 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm 2 comments

Health Policy Expertise

We provide effective, innovative opportunities to impact federal Medicare and health care policies and legislation in order to advance fair access to Medicare and quality health care.

Judith A. Stein, Executive Director

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