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Two Years Too Long
March 26, 2009 • Volume 9, Issue 12
Raymond Waddell was in his 30s when he was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer, which prevented him from continuing his work as an upholsterer. Following his diagnosis, Medicaid paid for his chemotherapy until he began to receive his $768 monthly Social Security Disability check and his income rose over Medicaid's limit.
Raymond had to discontinue his radiation treatment because he could no longer afford medical care. With the help of a social worker he was able to identify a charity hospital—at this point, however, his condition had spread to his brain and he began having seizures.
Raymond had to rely on free drug samples and charity care for radiation, but was unable to get charity coverage for chemotherapy. He went without chemo and his condition continued to worsen—leading to numbness in his arm and fingers. Eventually his condition was so bad that he was admitted to a charity hospice.
Raymond died after entering hospice. There is no doubt that his last months would have been less difficult for him and his family if he were able to afford the necessary treatment and medications instead of having to forgo care.
Stories like this one are the reason the Medicare Rights Center and a broad coalition of advocates for people with disabilities have made it a priority to eliminate the two-year waiting period this year, when health reform is on Congress’s agenda.
Nearly 7 million Americans under age 65 qualify for Medicare due to severe and permanent disabilities. However, their coverage doesn’t begin when they first become disabled. The law states that they must wait two full years from the date their Social Security Disability Insurance begins before they can receive Medicare. This is a cruel and senseless policy that must be fixed.
This 24-month waiting period exposes millions to financial hardship, pain and suffering. Nearly 40 percent of people with disabilities are without health insurance coverage at some point during their wait for Medicare, often when they can no longer afford the cost of continuing COBRA coverage from a former employer. Nearly 24 percent have no health insurance during this entire period.
The waiting period produces many heart-wrenching stories of struggles to obtain health care while living on a limited income. Now is the time to act to make sure that the elimination of the two-year waiting period is a part of any health care reform package.
Please write your senators and representative and ask them to cosponsor the Ending the Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act of 2009, introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman (Democrat of New Mexico) and Representative Gene Green (Democrat of Texas).
“‘The waiting period forces people with severe disabilities to endure two years during which treatment and care of their condition are put at risk. As a result, people may forego care they cannot afford, complicating their condition and potentially raising the cost of care once Medicare does step in,’ said Kimberly Cantor, Manager of Federal Government Relations from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. ‘This means that costs to Medicare will likely be higher once the end of the waiting period is reached.’” (Over 120 Patient Advocacy Groups Support Legislation to Eliminate Two-Year Medicare Waiting Period, March 26, 2009)
“With health care reform on the horizon, there is a unique opportunity to close this unjustifiable gap in health care coverage for people with disabilities. Nearly 40 percent of people with disabilities are without health insurance coverage at some point during their wait for Medicare; 24 percent have no health insurance during this entire period.” (Coalition letter to cosponsors of the Ending the Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act of 2009, March 26, 2009)
“While the Exchange is being created, the Baucus plan would make health care coverage immediately available to Americans 55 to 64 through a Medicare buy-in, and it would begin to phase out the current two-year waiting period for Medicare coverage for individuals with disabilities,” (Call to Action: Health Reform 2009, U.S. Senator Max Baucus, November 2009)
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Medicare Part D Appeals Help for Advocates Is Here!
Medicare Rights Center’s new Medicare Part D Appeals: An advocate’s manual to navigating the Medicare private drug plan appeals process offers an easy-to-understand, comprehensive overview of the entire appeals process, including real-life case examples, a glossary of important appeals terms, a sample protocol for advocates, and links to important resources.
Register for a FREE copy of this great resource.
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Medicare Part D Monitoring Project
would like to hear about your experience, or that of someone you know, enrolled in a private drug plan. With information about what the issues are with Medicare Part D, we will be able to demand that those problems be fixed. Medicare Rights Center
Submit your story at http://www.medicarerights.org/issues-actions/tell-your-story.php.
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The Louder Our Voice, the Stronger Our Message
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Asclepios—named for the Greek and Roman god of medicine who, acclaimed for his healing abilities, was at one point the most worshipped god in Greece—is a weekly e-newsletter designed to keep you up-to-date with Medicare program and policy issues, and advance advocacy strategies to address them. Please help build awareness of key Medicare consumer issues by forwarding this action alert to your friends and encouraging them to subscribe today.
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The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives.
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