NCOA and Aging Coalition Members Call for Support of Baucus Medicare Bill

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Proposal Includes Critical Beneficiary Improvements

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If the Baucus bill fails to pass, the direct improvements to Medicare for vulnerable seniors will likely be dropped, and they will once again be left without the help they desperately need.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) strongly supports the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (S. 3101), sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). NCOA and a broad array of national organizations representing over 40 million seniors are urging Senators to vote to support the bipartisan Baucus Medicare bill, scheduled for a cloture vote on June 12.

"The Baucus bill addresses a number of serious, long-standing problems faced by struggling seniors on fixed incomes," said Howard Bedlin, NCOA Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy. "It corrects deficiencies in the premium assistance program for low-income older people, which has resulted in participation rates of only 13%, and removes barriers that impede access to needed mental health and preventive care."

NCOA strongly opposes the bill introduced today by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the Preserving Access to Medicare Act. "We are surprised and disappointed that the Grassley proposal fails to include provisions in the Baucus bill that would do the most to help seniors in greatest need – those with incomes below $15,000 who are struggling with rapidly rising Medicare, food, and gasoline costs," Bedlin said. "Now is not the time to be ignoring the needs of this vulnerable population. Medicare premiums have more than doubled since 2000, while eligibility levels for premium assistance have not been adjusted for inflation in over 20 years."

A recent Harris poll by NCOA found that almost 90 percent of Americans believe that improving programs to protect poor seniors against rising Medicare costs should be a top priority for Congress this year. The Grassley proposal rejects these findings by not including improvements that would most help seniors in greatest need.

NCOA is working with a broad range of national organizations, representing more than 40 million older Americans, that supports the Baucus Medicare bill and is telling Senators how important the upcoming vote is for seniors across the country. Thirty members of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), which includes NCOA, sent a letter to Senators yesterday urging support for the bill stating: "A vote against the Baucus Medicare bill is a vote against America's seniors." This has become even clearer since the introduction of the Grassley proposal.

In a May 22 letter urging that Senators fix the Medicare programs problems faced by low-income beneficiaries, a diverse group of 42 national organizations agreed that "Helping vulnerable beneficiaries with income below $15,000 is as or more important than helping doctors with income over $150,000."

In addition to NCOA, organizations that signed the letter include AARP, AFL-CIO, American Association of People with Disabilities, Alzheimer's Association, Easter Seals, Medicare Rights Center, National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Committee of Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Service Employees International Union, and United Cerebral Palsy.

"To get the 60 votes needed for passage of the Baucus bill, we will need broad bipartisan support," said Bedlin. "If the Baucus bill fails to pass, the direct improvements to Medicare for vulnerable seniors will likely be dropped, and they will once again be left without the help they desperately need."

About the National Council on Aging
Founded in 1950, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has a mission to improve the lives of older Americans. A non-profit organization with 3,700 members, we also have a national network of some 14,000 organizations and leaders that help us in our work. NCOA members include senior centers, area agencies on aging, adult day service centers, faith-based service organizations, senior housing facilities, employment services, consumer groups and leaders from academia, business and labor. Our programs help older people remain healthy and independent, find jobs, increase access to benefits programs, and discover meaningful ways to continue contributing to society.

Contact:
Georgiana Bloom
202-609-6935
georgiana.bloom(at)ncoa.org

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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