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Help for Low-Income People with Medicare
January 7, 2010 • Volume 10, Issue 1
The broad goals of the House and Senate health reform bills are the same. Insurance companies will be prohibited from denying or rescinding coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Working Americans who can’t get health insurance through their jobs can receive help paying for coverage on an exchange, where all insurers must provide benefits that meet minimum standards, such as annual caps on out-of-pocket spending. Those with very low incomes will be able to receive coverage through an expanded Medicaid program.
But there are significant differences in the details of the House and Senate bills, and lawmakers are meeting now to try to iron those out. One key difference is how the legislation affects low-income people with Medicare.
The House bill, H.R. 3962, expands eligibility for both the Extra Help program, which helps pay premiums and copays for prescription drugs, and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), which help cover cost-sharing and premiums for medical care.
Individuals with very low incomes ($1,218 per month for MSP and full Extra Help) are eligible for such assistance, but only if they have very limited assets ($8,100 for an individual, $12,910 for a couple). This restrictive asset test penalizes Americans with limited incomes who have done the right thing and saved for their retirement. H.R 3962 provides a modest increase in the asset test for both programs to $17,000 for individuals and $34,000 for couples, allowing low-income beneficiaries to maintain modest nest eggs for emergencies in their retirement.
It is crucial that this provision is maintained in the final legislation sent to President Obama. Low-income older adults and people with disabilities should not have to deplete their savings to afford basic medical care and prescription drugs. Please urge your senators and representatives to help low-income people with Medicare receive the care they need.
“As you work to reconcile the House and Senate bills, we urge you to make it a priority to include these important Medicare Reforms. The underlying legislation passed by both chambers improves Medicare’s financial outlook: it is vital that the final bill also make medical care and prescription drugs more affordable to older adults and people with disabilities.” (Letter to House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid from Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker, December 2009)
Side-by-Side Comparison of Health Reform Bill’s Impact on Medicare
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The Medicare Rights Center is now on Twitter. Follow us at www.twitter.com/medicarerights.
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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.
Register for a FREE copy of this great resource.
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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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The Medicare Rights Center is on Twitter. Follow us at www.twitter.com/medicarerights.