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The Long Wait for Health Care
July 2, 2009 • Volume 9, Issue 26
More than a half century after Congress rejected President Harry Truman’s plan to guarantee health insurance to all Americans, there are now:
- 50 million men, women and children without health insurance, and millions more a pink slip away from losing coverage;
- 22 million Americans who are bankrupted by medical bills each year (three quarters of them have health insurance that still left them stuck with unaffordable medical debts);
- 1.8 million people with disabilities that are so severe and permanent that they qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but who are stuck in the two year waiting period for Medicare.
We have waited long enough for health care reform. We need a system that provides affordable health care for everyone, and that guarantees that health insurance actually protects us against catastrophic health costs. And that system has to work for people with disabilities.
Since 1972, Medicare has provided health insurance to people who qualify for SSDI. That coverage has provided access to health care for millions of people with disabilities that private insurers refuse to cover. But before they get Medicare, they must survive the two-year wait for coverage that is written into law. More than one-in-ten die waiting for Medicare coverage to start, and many more forego treatment or pile up debts because they are uninsured or the insurance they have is unaffordable and inadequate.
This week, more than 50 organizations who advocate for people with disabilities urged an end to the two-year wait for Medicare in a letter to congressional leaders who are drafting health reform legislation. Recognizing that Congress may balk at the cost of abolishing the waiting period—the Congressional Budget Office estimates it would cost $113 billion over the next 10 years—the organizations expressed support for legislative proposals that would provide affordable, high quality, comprehensive coverage for people in the waiting period.
This is the year Congress must finally fix our fractured health care system. Please write your congressional representatives and urge them to end the two-year wait for Medicare for people with disabilities and pass health reform this year.
“We write to express our concern that the discussion draft of health reform legislation from your committees does not eliminate the two-year waiting period for Medicare for people with disabilities. While we are heartened that the draft legislation provides new coverage options for people in the two-year waiting period through the proposed Health Insurance Exchange and through Medicaid expansion, we continue to believe that Medicare is the most appropriate vehicle for providing health coverage to people with disabilities.” (Letter from the Coalition to End the Two-Year Wait for Medicare, July 2009)
“Until this time, Roy’s employer had managed to keep him insured. But now, before Roy could begin receiving cancer treatments, the company was sold and neither Roy nor Shirley was rehired. They became uninsured, except for Roy’s workers’ compensation which only covered physical therapy, pain management, and prescription drugs related to his foot injury. Roy would not get Medicare until October 2005. By this time, the total temporary disability Roy received had decreased to $900 per month. The Mauels, still reeling from their declaration of bankruptcy, could not afford to continue their employer health insurance through COBRA, which would have cost more than $900 per month.” (Too Sick to Work, Too Soon for Medicare: The Human Cost of the Two-Year Waiting Period for Americans with Disabilities, Medicare Rights Center, April 2007)
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Medicare Part D Appeals Help for Advocates Is Here!
Medicare Rights Center’s new Medicare Part D Appeals: An advocate’s manual to navigating the Medicare private drug plan appeals process offers an easy-to-understand, comprehensive overview of the entire appeals process, including real-life case examples, a glossary of important appeals terms, a sample protocol for advocates, and links to important resources.
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Medicare Part D Monitoring Project
would like to hear about your experience, or that of someone you know, enrolled in a private drug plan. With information about what the issues are with Medicare Part D, we will be able to demand that those problems be fixed. Medicare Rights Center
Submit your story at http://www.medicarerights.org/issues-actions/tell-your-story.php.
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The Louder Our Voice, the Stronger Our Message
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Asclepios—named for the Greek and Roman god of medicine who, acclaimed for his healing abilities, was at one point the most worshipped god in Greece—is a weekly e-newsletter designed to keep you up-to-date with Medicare program and policy issues, and advance advocacy strategies to address them. Please help build awareness of key Medicare consumer issues by forwarding this action alert to your friends and encouraging them to subscribe today.
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The 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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