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The Fight Heads to the Floor
October 15, 2009 • Volume 9, Issue 41
With the passage of the Senate Finance Committee’s America’s Healthy Future Act, the fight for passage of health reform legislation will soon take place on the Senate floor. That fight will likely include votes on amendments designed to kill the health reform effort, as well as amendments to make the bill better. This provides a new chance to improve the Senate bill, which now does less to improve Medicare benefits than does the House proposal.
The pending bill in the House of Representatives, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (HR 3200) includes language that would phase out the coverage gap in the Medicare Part D drug benefit, known as the doughnut hole, and provides 50 percent discounts on brand-name drugs in the interim. Closing the doughnut hole would mean thousands of dollars in savings for people with Medicare who now pay the full cost of their medicines when they are in the coverage gap.
The Senate Finance Committee’s America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 includes only the brand-name discount, but during the Senate floor debate an amendment to close the doughnut hole may well be added. (An amendment replicating the doughnut hole phase-out provision failed to pass the Senate Finance Committee.)
HR 3200 expands access to low-income programs for people with Medicare by increasing the asset levels for eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs and Low-Income Subsidy programs, allowing many additional people with limited incomes to receive financial assistance for their medical and prescription drug costs and still keep a modest nest egg for their retirement. The Senate Finance Committee’s legislation offers no expansion of access to these programs.
We need your help to improve the Senate health reform bill. People with Medicare should let their senators know that health reform legislation must close the Part D doughnut hole and help low-income people with Medicare afford medical care.
We need comprehensive health reform now. Please write your senators and tell them to Remember People with Medicare when they pass health reform.
“A sharp difference between the House and Senate bills comes in their treatment of Medicare drug coverage. Both bills would provide a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs for those in the gap, or ‘doughnut hole,’ in the drug benefit where coverage stops and consumers pay the full prices of their medicines.
“But the House bill makes a substantial improvement in coverage by gradually eliminating the doughnut hole, thereby providing full coverage for drugs. For people with high drug costs, the House bill could mean hundreds of dollars in additional savings compared to their drug costs under the Senate legislation.
“Even more troublesome, a recent amendment to the Senate bill would allow a new Medicare Commission to raise the premiums people with Medicare pay for drug coverage.” (Seniors Could Benefit from Health Care Reform Proposals – Editorial, Joseph Baker, Star-Banner [Ocala, FL], October 11, 2009)
“Part D enrollees pay the full cost of their prescriptions when they reach the coverage gap. Between 2007 and 2009, the two PDPs with the highest enrollment, AARP MedicareRx Preferred and Humana Standard PDP, posted double-digit price increases for commonly used brand-name drugs.” (Medicare Prescription Drug Plans in 2009 and Key Changes Since 2006, Kaiser Family Foundation, June 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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