FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Precht
Director of Policy and Communications
May 12, 2009
Statement of Paul Precht, Medicare Rights Center Director of Policy and Communications, on the Senate Finance Committee’s Policy Options for Expanding Health Care Coverage
Washington, D.C. – The Senate Finance Committee has released a series of coverage proposals that chart a path toward affordable health care for all Americans. The paper addresses most of the areas needed for comprehensive reform: curbs on premium pricing that discriminates against people in poor health; minimum benefit standards and transparency that enable consumers to select high-quality coverage, including a public option; a straightforward, streamlined process that enables low- and moderate-income people to receive help paying for coverage; and coverage that works for people with disabilities and other individuals with special needs.
The Medicare Rights Center is grateful that the Finance Committee has put forward a number of options to phase out the two-year wait for Medicare coverage that people must endure after they become eligible for Social Security disability insurance. The Committee is wise to recognize that the high cost of COBRA coverage from a former employer is an inadequate substitute for the health security available under Medicare. With these proposals, we have new hope that, at long last, this unconscionable delay in health coverage for people with disabilities will end.
Unfortunately, the Finance Committee included no proposals to improve access to programs that help low-income people with Medicare pay their medical and prescription drug costs. The committee proposes to eliminate the asset test and streamline the application and renewal processes for Medicaid, but does not remove these bureaucratic obstacles for Medicare Savings Programs or for Extra Help under the Part D drug benefit. Low-income older adults and people with disabilities who are struggling to pay medical bills or high prescription drug costs should also receive the help they need. We must not waste the opportunity presented by health reform to streamline and expand access to assistance for low-income people with Medicare.
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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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