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Posts Tagged 'health care'

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Still Confused about Health Reform?

Many Medicare beneficiaries are and it's no wonder given all the misinformation swirling around health reform legislation.   Today Congressional leadership and the administration have teamed up to help seniors understand how health reform will impact Medicare. 

“Older Americans are dependent on Medicare for their health coverage.  So seniors are especially susceptible to misinformation that Medicare is threatened by reforms. They are anxious and looking for information and they absolutely need a reliable place where they can get their questions answered accurately.  It’s critical that seniors get the facts about provisions that will benefit them as soon as next month.”  Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO
For 84-year-old Ben Williamowsky, the health care reform debate was often confusing and frustrating.  As a retired dentist, he understands our current health system well, yet was discouraged by the amount of misinformation being targeted to seniors, during the debate and even now.  Williamowsky described his frustration at a Capitol Hill news conference hosted by House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi today: 
“I’m old enough that I remember what it was like in the early days after Medicare was created – when similar scare tactics were used – threatening seniors with all sorts of bad things if Medicare was enacted.  None of them happened.  Doctors didn’t go out of business or stop seeing seniors.  In fact, life was much better for millions of seniors who desperately needed health coverage and today Medicare is a tremendous success story.  But not everyone remembers history the way I do.  That’s why we absolutely need someplace we can trust to answer our questions and dispel the false rumors about this new law. “ Dr. Ben Williamowsky, Medicare Recipient   
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described a new brochure being mailed to Medicare beneficiaries to help them sort fact from fiction, avoid scammers who want to profit from seniors’ confusion and give beneficiaries the information they need to take advantage of historic reforms in the donut hole, preventative services and more.   The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is committed to providing America’s seniors with updated and detailed analyses of how healthcare reform legislation will affect their medical coverage in Medicare.  In our newly released web video, “Health Reform and Seniors”, we describe many of the provisions in health reform which will touch the lives of seniors, some as soon as next year.  The video is available on the National Committee’s YouTube Channel and will also be made available to seniors groups, town hall meetings, and grassroots events.  This video supplements the National Committee’s popular newsletter, Secure Retirement, which provides detailed coverage of health care reform in its spring issue.  In fact, we’ve run a second printing of this publication due to very high demand from seniors nationwide.

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Debt, Deficits, Social Security and More...

healthcare chartIf you generally skip by budget or economic headlines in favor of something more easily comprehendible, we suggest today you make an exception. Here are excerpts from three articles which together provide must-read perspectives on our debt/deficits,  Social Security and Medicare.   Saul Friedman, Grey Matters columnist, takes former Senator and Debt Commission co-chairman, Alan Simpson, to task for perpetuating the myth that Social Security has anything to do with current budget deficits.

“Social Security’s long term fiscal problem has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with Social Security's role in the deficit. For, as I have emphasized in my column for years, Social Security costs the budget not one cent-aside from the one percent it spends on its thousands of employees and field offices. Indeed, Social Security helps finance the deficit by loaning the treasury money, for which it earns interest (about $700 million a year.) If what's owed to Social Security must be cut as part of deficit reduction, will that help Social Security? Nevertheless, Simpson's statements help perpetuate the myth among right-wingers that Social Security contributes to the deficit.”
 CEPR economist, Mark Weisbrot, offers this analysis of what’s truly driving our deficit and debt:
 “For the long term, as the CBO has emphasized, the vast majority of the deficit and debt problem is just rapidly-rising health care costs. Of course, we could be like other developed countries and have universal health care, and pay about half of what we are now paying per person. That is the average for the other high-income countries. This would take care of our long-term federal debt problems. Another significant contributor to our long-term debt is the military. On an annual basis, we spent 5.0 percent of GDP on just the Defense Department budget last year. Before 9/11, the CBO had projected just 2.4 percent for 2009. The difference is more than twice the long-term shortfall in our Social Security system, and it is based on an understatement of military spending. Maybe we need to focus on protecting our airports from already existing terrorists rather than recruiting more by occupying foreign countries. Maybe we don't need hundreds of military bases all over the world. But thanks to the power of what President Eisenhower famously named the "military industrial complex," President Obama has exempted the military from any spending freeze. Thanks to the two most powerful lobbies in Congress -- insurance and pharmaceutical -- getting health care costs under control is still a distant dream. And then there's the people who make the nation's major economic decisions and actually brought us this mess - Goldman Sachs and their Wall Street friends: they want to put Social Security on the chopping block to pay for their crimes (and bonuses). Anybody see a pattern here? It's not the debt that threatens our future.” 
So, ultimately this brings us back around to health care reform.  The New York Times details the “Cost of Doing Nothing in Health Care”:
 “Hands off my health care,” goes one strain of populist sentiment. But what if?   Suppose Congress and President Obama fail to overhaul the system now, or just tinker around the edges, or start over, as the Republicans propose — despite the Democrats’ latest and possibly last big push that began last week at a marathon televised forum in Washington. Then “my health care” stays the same, right? Far from it, health policy analysts and economists of nearly every ideological persuasion agree. The unrelenting rise in medical costs is likely to wreak havoc within the system and beyond it, and pretty much everyone will be affected, directly or indirectly. “People think if we do nothing, we will have what we have now,” said Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care research group in New York. “In fact, what we will have is a substantial deterioration in what we have.” Nearly every mainstream analysis calls for medical costs to continue to climb over the next decade, outpacing the growth in the overall economy and certainly increasing faster than the average paycheck. Those higher costs will translate into higher premiums, which will mean fewer individuals and businesses will be able to afford insurance coverage. More of everyone’s dollar will go to health care, and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid will struggle to find the money to operate.
So when someone tells you health care reform is bad for Medicare remember that without it, Medicare will face devastating reforms as budget cutters look for savings in federal spending even though system wide costs will continue to skyrocket unchecked.  And when someone tells you Social Security is to blame for our deficits, remind them its American workers who fund Social Security NOT the federal government.  In fact, the $2.5 trillion dollar surplus improved our federal debt picture throughout the past decade of borrow and spend policies.

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What's Next on Health Care Reform?

The Senate is expected to wrap up it's health care debate tomorrow morning and then it's off to conference committee. Some lawmakers, particularly those who feel too much has been given away in the Senate health care bill, hope there might be changes in the conference version of the health care bill. That certainly doesn't appear likely. Our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, was among many interviewed in this good summary by McClatchy Newspapers. The Associated Press also has a detailed description of the differences between the House and Senate bills as they go into conference. Lastly, just for fun we recommend Politifact's Lie of the Year post.  Drum roll please.... It's Sarah Palin's continuing lie about death panels.  And given the year we've had...that's one heck of an accomplishment.

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National Committee Member Shares her Story at the White House

fran photoFran Garfinkle is a 70-year old retired small business owner from Maryland who understands how quickly retirement dreams can change in our current health care system.  Fran, a member of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, joined First Lady Michelle Obama and Director of Health Reform Nancy Ann DeParle at a White House event today urging passage of health reform legislation.  Fran’s health care story mirrors that of millions of seniors each year who are trapped in the Medicare Part D coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole”. A provision in the recently passed House legislation would eliminate the coverage gap. 

“This past July, the pharmacist told me that I was in the doughnut hole and would have to pay for my medicine on my own. I was floored! To get a 3 months supply of just this one drug costs me $1100. And on top of that, I’d have to pay the full price for the 3 other prescription medications I needed.  I couldn’t believe that I was left to fend for myself at the very time that I really could use the help. Our expenses were already pretty hefty. How was I going to pay for this?”...Fran Garfinkle, NCPSSM member
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare supports health reform that manages costs, attacks waste, and makes important improvements to Medicare.  Closing the Part D doughnut hole, allowing government negotiation of drug prices in Part D and eliminating billions of dollars of wasteful subsidies to private insurers in Medicare are just a few of the vital reforms benefiting seniors included in the House health reform legislation. The status quo is simply not an option for seniors in Medicare or our economy as a whole. 
 “Not a day goes by that we don’t hear from our members about skyrocketing drug prices, growing out of pocket costs, and even losing Part D coverage entirely after falling into the doughnut hole.  Medicare is a lifeline to millions of seniors yet the rising costs system-wide are threatening the program.  Older women, like Fran, understand this and we’re proud she added her voice to this debate.”...Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO 

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National Committee Truth Squad Releases New Video

badge2_3x3-full sizeWill health care reform hurt seniors?  That's the issue we tackle in the latest National Committee Truth Squad video.  And it's an issue that deserves more than just screaming town halls and soundbite answers.  We've compiled all of our policy analysis on the various health care reform proposals and other important information on our Truth Squad page.  Here is our latest Truth Squad video on our YouTube Channel:

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