Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            Contact: Paul Precht
Dec. 2, 2009                                                                                        Director of Policy and Communications
                                                                                                            Medicare Rights Center

                                                                                                            Judith A. Stein, Esq.
                                                                                                            Executive Director
                                                                                                            Center for Medicare Advocacy

                                                                                                            Vicki Gottlich
                                                                                                            Senior Policy Attorney
                                                                                                            Center for Medicare Advocacy

                                                                                                            Akiko Takano
                                                                                                            Deputy Director of Communications

Joint Statement by Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker and
Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director Judith Stein
on McCain Amendment to Senate Health Reform Bill

New York, NY—The amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offered by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, is couched as an effort to protect Medicare. It is not. In fact, if this amendment passes, it would kill the bill and the very real benefit improvements it makes for people with Medicare.

By curbing the annual reimbursement increases to hospitals and other facilities and by bringing subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans more in line with costs under Original Medicare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by five years. By reversing the payment provisions in the bill, the McCain amendment would keep the Medicare trust fund on its current path to bankruptcy in 2017. The amendment even rescinds provisions that deliver savings by reducing hospital readmissions and improving care coordination.

The McCain amendment would overturn the bill’s provisions that rein in the overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans. These overpayments will cost taxpayers $170 billion over the next ten years. They threaten the financial sustainability of Medicare and raise premiums for all people with Medicare, including the vast majority who are enrolled in Original Medicare.

Most importantly, by derailing efforts to pass health reform, the McCain amendment would prevent the benefit improvements in the bill for people with Medicare from becoming a reality. Instead of paying half-price for their medicines when they fall into the coverage gap in the Medicare drug benefit—as they will next year if this bill passes—older adults and people with disabilities will struggle to pay the full cost of their medicines, or will continue to skip doses and split pills as they do today. Further, people with Medicare will not see the savings or improved health from the bill’s improvements to preventive benefits if the McCain amendment passes and health reform does not.  Instead, all people with Medicare and the Medicare program itself will be harmed.

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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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The Center for Medicare Advocacy works to advance fair access to comprehensive Medicare coverage and quality health care for older people and people with disabilities by providing the highest quality analysis, education and advocacy.