The nation’s broken health care system has finally reached the top of the domestic agenda, and lawmakers are ready to tackle the problem in earnest.
Affordable health care choices for all Americans must be the goal. Yet, this basic necessity is increasingly out of reach, and the recent recession has made a serious problem worse as laid-off workers lose their health benefits.
Even with the landmark health care reform law in place here in Massachusetts, many 50-64 year olds still find themselves priced out of affordable coverage. This is largely because premiums remain sky high as insurers continue to increase costs based on age.
In addition, those 65 and older are feeling the pinch as drug costs continue to soar. According to 2007 data, in Massachusetts alone, 25% of those enrolled in the Medicare Part D drug benefit have landed in the “doughnut hole” (coverage gap) potentially facing thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.
AARP Members Speak Out
Statistics aren’t the only things telling the grim story – AARP Massachusetts members have shared their stories in large numbers and have put a face and a name on behalf of those who are battling with health care affordability. Suffering from Stage Four Chronic Kidney Disease, Char of Lynn requires the biologic prescription drug Epogen to maintain healthy kidney levels. Right now, she pays $1200 each month for health insurance and expects the cost to increase once she turns 55. “My drug costs aren’t going down,” she stated.
The mounting problems in health care breed cynicism, stress and despair. As Pat of Salem, who is stuck in the “doughnut hole,” put it: “It’s a struggle; it seems that piece by piece your savings is being taken away to the point that you could end up with nothing.”
Six Steps to Reform
AARP is fighting to make the system work for everyone. We believe that Congress should take six steps to guarantee that all Americans have a choice of quality health care plans they can afford:
- Guarantee affordable coverage for Americans ages 50-64;
- Close the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole”;
- Prevent costly hospital readmissions by creating a Medicare follow up care benefit to help people transition home after a hospital stay;
- Increase federal funding and eligibility for home and community based services through Medicaid so older Americans can remain in their homes as they age and avoid more costly institutional care; and
- Improve programs that help low income Americans in Medicare afford the health care and prescription drugs they need.
“Our health care system costs too much, wastes too much, makes too many mistakes and gives us back too little value for our money,” said Deborah Banda, AARP Massachusetts state director. “This sad diagnosis is shared by many on both sides of the political aisle. “Yet while members of Congress may disagree on details of health reform, the over-arching goal of affordable, accessible health care for all commands widespread support. So does the recognition that we all share responsibility to be part of the solution,” she added. “With costs rising and coverage shrinking, the need for fair, bipartisan measures to repair the system has never been so urgent.”
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