What is Your Representative’s Plan for Medicare?
To help those with Medicare,
their families and friends and
future Medicare beneficiaries
positions on the Medicare
program, the Medicare Rights
Center has compiled “Five Medicare Questions for Candidates.” Individuals can direct these questions at Presidential, Congressional and Senatorial candidates to inquire how the policies they support will affect Medicare beneficiaries. Individuals can modify the document as they wish and submit the questions by mail or e-mail, or ask them over the phone or in-person. Many of the questions focus on the future of the Medicare program and the benefits and coverage that will be available to beneficiaries. These issues currently sit at the center of the deficit-reduction and budget debates.
Many proposals under consideration would save the government money by shifting costs onto Medicare beneficiaries, increasing the out-of-pocket health care expenses of older adults and those with disabilities. For example, the budget authored by Representative Paul Ryan and recently approved by the House of Representatives would convert Medicare into a voucher system, under which beneficiaries would receive a defined contribution from the government to buy health coverage. The House budget would cap the amount of Medicare spending at a rate that would not reflect actual increases in the cost of health care overall. As a result, over time, the voucher would be insufficient to purchase health coverage as good as that which Medicare currently provides to beneficiaries.
Other questions focus not only on how candidates plan to preserve Medicare, but also on how they plan to improve the program, for example by reducing the cost of coverage for beneficiaries. People with Medicare already spend 15 percent of their household incomes on health care, five times as much as the non-Medicare population. Moreover, half of all people with Medicare have annual incomes of less than $25,000. For a population with high health care needs, policymakers must examine how they can improve Medicare, while making the benefit more affordable.
“We encourage everyone to ask tough questions of those who hold the future of Medicare—and therefore of our health and retirement security—in their hands,” says Joe Baker, president of Medicare Rights. “It is important to know how prospective lawmakers intend to change programs that millions of people depend on.”
Read Medicare Rights’ “Five Medicare Questions for Candidates.”
HHS Announces the Formation of the New Administration for Community Living
This week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the creation of the new Administration for Community Living (ACL) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The ACL combines the Administration on Aging (AoA), the Office on Disability, and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities into a single agency. The ACL is dedicated to increasing access to services and supports that allow older adults and people with disabilities to live at home and in their communities. In a statement released Monday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the supports the ACL will aim to improve “go well beyond health care and include the availability of appropriate housing, employment, education, meaningful relationships and social participation.”
Kathy Greenlee, current Assistant Secretary for Aging at the AoA, will be the new Administrator of the ACL. She will be joined at the agency by Henry Claypool, who will serve as Principal Deputy Administrator, and Sharon Lewis, who will serve as Commissioner of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Greenlee announced the foundation of the new agency on a call to stakeholder groups earlier this week. She stated that the ACL will have a broad focus and serve as a new space for aging and disability initiatives and policies at the federal level. According to the ACL’s website, though the agency itself is new, the day-to-day management of individual departmental programs, including those that fall under the Older Americans Act and the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights, will remain relatively unchanged.
Read Secretary Sebelius’ statement on the creation of the Administration for Community Living.
Visit the website of the Administration for Community Living.
New Materials on Medicare Available in Spanish
In an effort to assist Medicare beneficiaries who do not speak English as their first language, the Medicare Rights Center has developed new consumer-friendly Spanish-language educational resources. These fliers cover important Medicare topics, ranging from how to choose a Medicare private health plan, also known as a Medicare Advantage plan, to how to apply for Medicare-related low-income benefits, including the Medicare Savings Programs and Extra Help. These fliers are also available in English.
Choosing a Medicare Advantage plan: Spanish and English
Choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan: Spanish and English
Buying a Medigap plan: Spanish and English
How to get help paying for your Medicare costs: Spanish and English
Calling the Social Security Administration about Extra Help: Spanish and English
Learn more about your Medicare benefits, options, and rights at www.medicareinteractive.org, or call our helpline at
In the midst of ongoing deficit-reduction and budget debates, Medicare remains a target for policymakers looking to reduce federal spending. One proposal that would lower costs for the government by shifting out-of-pocket expenses to Medicare beneficiaries involves increasing monthly Part B premiums for a greater number of higher-income individuals. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a report concluding that 86 percent of Americans are unaware that higher-income beneficiaries already pay more for their Part B coverage. In addition, the report states that people do not agree on what amount of earnings constitutes “high income.”
Read the Kaiser Family Foundation’s report.