FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Precht
Director of Policy and Communications
Deputy Director of Communications
January 11, 2010
Over 100 Patient and Provider Groups Push for Affordable Care for People with Disabilities in Final Health Reform Bill
-- In Letter to Congressional Leaders, Groups Urge Adoption of Three Key Provisions --
New York, NY—Over 100 members of the Coalition to End the Two-Year Wait for Medicare, a group of patient and provider organizations dedicated to health care access for people with disabilities, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on January 11 to urge that the final health reform legislation ensure affordable coverage for people with disabilities.
“This letter makes clear that there is broad support for provisions that will make sure that the new coverage options for people with disabilities have premiums and copays that they can afford,” said Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker. “The coverage the final bill will provide for people with disabilities who are waiting for Medicare will be an important test of whether this historic health care reform works for all Americans, including the most vulnerable.”
The Coalition reminded the congressional leaders of two important characteristics of people with disabilities in the two-year waiting period for Medicare:
- Two-thirds of people in the waiting period live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL);
- Over half of the people in the waiting period are over 50 years old.
The letter makes three recommendations that can make a significant difference in the affordability of care for people in the two-year waiting period:
- Set eligibility for Medicaid at 150 percent FPL, as stated in the House bill
Both the Senate and House bills expand eligibility criteria for Medicaid—the Senate sets the ceiling at 133 percent FPL, while the House does so at 150 percent FPL. “Compared to providing coverage through an exchange,” says the Coalition’s letter, “expanding Medicaid is both cost-effective and provides a level of benefits that helps eliminate cost as a barrier to care.”
- Adopt the House bill’s standards for value of health benefits and the premium subsidies for people with limited incomes through an exchange
The Senate bill does less than the House bill to help people with limited incomes who are above the Medicaid eligibility threshold. Under the Senate bill, the premium paid by a person at 200 percent FPL would claim a larger share of their income, and would buy a plan that covered a smaller percentage of their health care costs (lower actuarial value). The Senate bill does, however, include protections that the coalition would like to see preserved in the final bill, such as caps on out-of-pocket spending and more generous premium subsidies for people between 250 and 400 percent FPL.
- Adopt the 2:1 age-rating as specified in the House bill
The Senate and House bills have set caps on the amount that insurers can charge older adults for coverage. The Senate sets this age-rating at 3:1, while the House sets it at 2:1. More than half of people with disabilities in the two-year waiting period are over age 50.
The Coalition’s letter can be found at www.medicarerights.org/pdf/two-year-wait-and-affordability-letter.pdf.
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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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