Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vice President Biden, Secretary Sebelius Issue New Report on Seniors and Health Insurance Reform

Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today hosted a town hall meeting with seniors in Silver Spring, Md., and released a new report,
Health Insurance Reform and Medicare: Making Medicare Stronger for America's Seniors. The report, authored by HHS, outlines how health insurance reform will help seniors and answers key questions about President Obama's health insurance reform plan. The complete report is
available now at

"We will protect seniors -- not burden them with out of pocket costs," said Vice President Biden. "The bottom line is, seniors will be better off under what we are proposing, and not a dollar from the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for health insurance reform."

"Under health insurance reform, seniors will get better care and their health care costs will go down," said Secretary Sebelius. "Reform will strengthen Medicare, cut drug costs, and help ensure all seniors get the high-quality, affordable care they deserve."

The report highlights several problems in the current health care system and health insurance reform solutions such as:

* Preserving and strengthening Medicare.
According to the Medicare Trustees 2009 report, the Medicare Part A
Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2017. Health insurance reform will
extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by an additional four to five
years -- and delivery system reforms included in health insurance reform
have the potential to keep the Trust Fund solvent even longer into the
future. Health insurance reform will also reduce overpayments to private
plans and will clamp down on fraud and abuse to strengthen Medicare for
all seniors. Coupled with improvements in the quality of care, expansion
of the health care workforce, and reductions in out-of-pocket costs,
health insurance reform will ensure that Medicare will continue to
provide the high-quality, affordable coverage that America's seniors
deserve and expect.

* Cutting high prescription drug costs.
Prescription drug costs represent a significant expense for seniors.
While Medicare added a prescription drug benefit, this benefit includes
a coverage gap commonly called the "donut hole." In 2007, over 8 million
seniors hit the "donut hole." For those who are not low-income or have
not purchased other coverage, average drug costs in this coverage gap
are $340 per month, or $4,080 per year. Health insurance reform will
close the coverage gap in Medicare Part D over time, so seniors do not
have to worry about losing coverage for their drug costs. While the
closure of the coverage gap is phased in, health insurance reform will
also provide seniors with a discount of 50 percent on their brand name
medication costs in the coverage gap, saving thousands of dollars for
some seniors.

* Making preventive services free.
Many seniors do not receive recommended preventive and primary care,
leading to less effective and more expensive treatments. For example, 20
percent of women aged 50 and over did not receive a mammogram in the
past two years, and 38 percent of adults aged 50 and over have never had
a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. Seniors in Medicare must pay 20 percent
of the cost of many preventive services on their own. For a colonoscopy
that costs $700, this means that a senior must pay $140 -- a price that
can be prohibitively expensive. Under health insurance reform, a senior
would not pay anything for a screening colonoscopy or other preventive
services. Reform will eliminate any deductibles, copayments, or other
cost-sharing for obtaining preventive services, making them affordable
and accessible.

* Ending overpayments to private insurance companies that cost all
Medicare beneficiaries.
The federal government pays private insurance companies on average 14
percent more for providing coverage to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries
than it would pay for the same beneficiary in the traditional Medicare
program. There is no evidence that this extra payment leads to better
quality for Medicare beneficiaries, and all Medicare beneficiaries pay
the price of these excessive overpayments through higher premiums --
even the 78 percent of seniors who are not enrolled in a Medicare
Advantage plan. A typical couple in traditional Medicare will pay on
average nearly $90 next year to subsidize private insurance companies
that do not provide their Medicare benefits. Health insurance reform
will eliminate excessive government subsidies to Medicare Advantage
plans, which could save the federal government, taxpayers, and Medicare
beneficiaries well over $100 billion over the next 10 years.

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