Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mitchell Clark
Senior Communications Associate
212-204-6286

January 2, 2013  

Extension of Medicare Benefits Builds Health and Economic Security
--Medicare Rights Center Applauds Action, Cautions Against Cost Shifting as Debate Unfolds--

Washington, DC—With no time to spare, Congress passed a package, negotiated with the Obama administration, to avert tax hikes on middle class families and delay deep spending cuts to defense and discretionary programs. Additionally, the legislation prevented a 27 percent pay cut for Medicare doctors and extended critical benefits for low-income Medicare beneficiaries for one year.

The Qualifying Individual (QI) program and therapy cap exceptions are among the health care benefits extended. The QI program pays the Medicare Part B premium for individuals with annual incomes of about $13,400 to $15,080 per year, or 120 percent to 135 percent of the federal poverty level. QI benefits will now remain available to eligible Medicare beneficiaries through 2013. A one-year extension of therapy cap exceptions ensures that those who need ongoing physical, occupational and speech therapy can access these services.

Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center, stated, “We are grateful that Congress and the Obama administration committed to protecting the well-being of low-income Medicare beneficiaries for an additional year. Extension of the QI program and therapy cap exceptions will allow people with Medicare to access needed health care without suffering a devastating financial hit. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to seek permanent fixes for these benefits.”

In addition, the law extends funding to counseling and service agencies, including State Health Insurance Programs (SHIPs), Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), and the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment, which provide targeted outreach and enrollment for low-income assistance programs. These critical supports help seniors and people with disabilities with limited means shoulder the high cost of Medicare.

Baker continued, “We are proud to have been part of a coalition which advocated for this funding to be renewed. Outreach and enrollment in low-income Medicare assistance programs is central to our mission, and we partner with agencies nationwide that will now be able to continue this vital work. Given that less than one half of those eligible for these benefits are enrolled, extension of this funding represents a critical step forward in building health and economic security for some of the most vulnerable beneficiaries.”

Policymakers continue to debate Medicare’s future as deficit reduction negotiations continue. Baker concluded, “While the fiscal cliff agreement makes significant strides in securing revenue and protecting Medicare beneficiaries, the current tenor of the deficit debate and the impending debt ceiling necessitates vigilance. Many members of Congress seek to cut federal spending by shifting costs to people with Medicare. This approach fails to tackle the real problem—rising health care costs in the system overall. We commend President Obama and other policymakers who have committed to cost saving solutions that protect the seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare to survive. Digging into the pockets of people with Medicare is not right path to reducing the nation’s deficit.”

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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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