The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Congress Urged to Remedy Federal Health Care
Feature Story by Lindsey Catlett - 7/18/2007
The AARP and civil rights organizations are urging Congress to support federal health care reform package that will correct the flaws in the current system and finance medical care for seniors, children, and those with little income.
The legislation is a response to the 2008 federal budget proposal, which calls for extensive cuts over five years to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It also calls for changes to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health care to low-income families.
"We see Medicare as part of a much bigger picture. We see the bigger picture as the need for comprehensive health care reform in this country. There is a substantial opportunity now to enact significant reforms," said AARP CEO Bill Novelli.
Medicare is the nation's largest federal health care program, covering about 43 million seniors and disabled citizens. The program provides reduced co-payments and prescription drugs to those with low incomes. However, a strict asset test excludes over five million people that need Medicare, according to the American Medical Association.
Additionally, changes in 2003 to Medicare Advantage (MA), one branch of the whole Medicare program, gave private insurance companies financial incentives to issue more MA plans to more people to save the federal government and beneficiaries money.
However, MA has cost 12 percent more than traditional plans due to overpayments to private insurance companies. To subsidize the MA plans, co-payments and premiums are rising for those on the traditional Medicare plan – some 81 percent of Medicare subscribers – according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.
The current system is "unfair to the majority of beneficiaries who participate in the traditional program. We need to have parity between the different parts of the Medicare program," said Novelli
Novelli said that new reforms in the bills will include "protecting Medicare beneficiaries from higher premiums, helping low-income beneficiaries pay for their prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses and provide health care to millions of uninsured children through SCHIP."
The health care reform package includes bills in both the House and the Senate. HR 4, the Medicare reform plan in the House, will raise the strict asset limit to qualify more people for the program. S 1224, which passed the Senate Finance Committee on July 17, will reauthorize SCHIP by increasing the tobacco excise tax.
Civil rights groups, like the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), are also calling upon Congress to enact the health care reform package. “All Americans should have access to high quality, comprehensive, and affordable health care. Congress should act to maintain and expand access to comprehensive health care through Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of LCCR.
Both bills have been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.