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AARP Urges Senate to Ensure Seniors Have Access to Doctors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 10, 2010

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Jordan McNerney or David Allen

202-434-2560

AARP Urges Senate to Ensure Seniors Have Access to Doctors

“People on Medicare deserve the peace of mind of knowing they can find a doctor when they need one.”

WASHINGTON—AARP CEO A. Barry Rand sent a letter to Senators today urging the chamber to pass the Manager’s Amendment to the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213).  The bill, similar to a version passed by the House last month, would ensure the 47 million Americans in Medicare continue to have access to their doctors by delaying a drastic cut in payments to physicians in the program.  The legislation will also help states continue to provide health care benefits to millions of Americans struggling with the high costs of care.  Rand’s letter follows:

June 10, 2010

Dear Senator:

On behalf of millions of AARP’s members, we urge you to support the Baucus Amendment to the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213).  Enacting this legislation will ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to their physicians and will provide much needed help to the states.

Because legislation was not enacted by June 1st, physicians who treat Medicare patients are set to receive a 21 percent reduction in their reimbursement for Medicare services.  We are concerned that unless legislation is enacted quickly, Medicare beneficiaries may find it exceedingly difficult to find a physician who will treat them—problems that are likely to be heightened in rural areas.  We have already heard from some of our members that they have had problems finding a physician who will accept Medicare patients.  People on Medicare deserve the peace of mind of knowing they can find a doctor when they need one.

H.R. 4213 would prevent the 21 percent cut to physician reimbursement, and would provide a stable payment system until 2012.  While we recognize this is not a permanent solution, our members—and the physicians who treat them—should not continue to be held hostage by short-term band-aid patches to an unworkable Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.  In the months to come, we look forward to working with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to repeal the SGR formula and replace it with a permanent physician payment system for Medicare that rewards value and ends the uncertainty for patients and providers alike.

The Baucus Amendment to H.R. 4213 will provide aid to states so they can continue to provide health care to the large number of people who, due to the economic crisis, need to rely on Medicaid.  Extending the federal funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for another six months will protect health benefits for low-income older Americans and is a proven tool to prevent further job erosion.  In addition, the amendment would extend unemployment insurance, which is particularly important to older workers who generally face longer periods of unemployment than younger workers.

As you move forward, we urge you to also include provisions that would extend COBRA health insurance subsidies that are especially important to older Americans in this economy.  In addition, we urge you to reinstate 401(k) fee disclosure provisions in the Senate Amendment to provide comprehensive, informative and timely disclosure of fee, expense and investment information to 401(k) plan participants.  Fee information—which currently is unavailable or difficult to access—is important because fees can significantly reduce the level of assets available for retirement.  All 401(k) plan participants have a need and a right to receive timely, accurate, and informative fee disclosures.

Sincerely,

Addison Barry Rand

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole.  AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates.  We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.7 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org.  AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors.  We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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