The Health Care Ball Keeps Rolling

After the Senate Finance Committee passed the Affordable Health Choices Act yesterday, Nancy LeaMond (AARP Executive Vice President) released this statement:
"We applaud the Senate Finance Committee for taking another important step toward fixing what's wrong with our health care system. Under the leadership of Chairman Baucus, the legislation reported today moves us even closer to providing much-needed relief to millions of older Americans who still face challenges accessing affordable, quality health care services.
"The Senate Finance Committee bill makes important improvements to the Medicare program by increasing preventive benefits, making sure Medicare's doctors do not face a pay cut this year, and most notably for AARP members--by reducing drug costs for seniors who fall into the dreaded Medicare doughnut hole, a costly gap in prescription drug coverage. Too often, those who fall into this coverage gap stop taking their prescription drugs because they simply can't afford to. While we applaud this assistance with drug costs in the doughnut hole, we urge the Senate to go further to meet the President's pledge to completely close the doughnut hole. With the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, we believe this bill should be improved so that it can help millions of older Americans afford their needed medications and avoid more intensive and costly care later in life.
"The bill also makes some improvements on age-rating, a discriminatory practice that allows insurers to charge exorbitant, age-based premiums to older Americans. Unfortunately, the bill will still allow insurance companies to charge older Americans premiums that are four times more than premiums for younger Americans, making it difficult for older Americans to afford health coverage. We hope the final Senate bill will be improved in this area.
"Finally, we strongly support provisions in the Senate Finance bill to expand home and community-based services (HCBS). The vast majority of Americans age 50 and over want to live in their homes and communities as long as they can. HCBS provisions are not only cost-effective, but can also help slow the growth in health care spending and keep millions of Americans out of nursing homes and in their own homes.
"The legislation passed is yet another milestone in the long journey to health care reform. We look forward to continuing our work with Chairman Baucus and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to further strengthen the bill, and we will continue to fight for reform that protects benefits for people in Medicare, improves health care affordability, and improves the health of every American."

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