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NCOA Supports Senate Health Reform Bill

Thursday, December 24, 2009 Press Release J E 4
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CLASS Act Long-Term Care Provision Key to Reform

Statement by James P. Firman, President and CEO of the National Council on Aging:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Council on Aging supports the Senate for its Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), which, when passed, will bring America one giant step closer to the long-awaited goal of health care that is both accessible and affordable for Americans of all ages.

NCOA has worked hard to ensure that the Senate bill will meet the particular needs of older adults, and we believe that, on balance, it is good for America's seniors. H.R. 3590 would improve health care for older Americans, protect and strengthen Medicare, extend coverage to 30 million more Americans, and reduce our national deficit.

We particularly celebrate the inclusion of the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Act--a voluntary, self-funded, and fiscally responsible public long-term care insurance program. The CLASS Act will help people live in their own homes and communities longer rather than being forced into poverty and nursing homes with reliance on Medicaid-based long-term care as the only option. CLASS is a good answer to a chronically unmet health care need, and we look forward to working with members of Congress to strengthen it further in conference.

Other valuable long-term care provisions include the Community First Choice Option, which would make it easier for those already on Medicaid to receive help in their homes and communities without being forced into institutions, and a new rule that would give spouses of those receiving Medicaid home and community-based services the same asset protections that spouses of those in Medicaid nursing homes receive.

Consistent with its commitment to our most vulnerable citizens, NCOA has also worked to support the Elder Justice Act and commends the Senate for including it in its final bill, as well as several improvements to offer the best possible outreach and coverage to those low-income "dual eligible" individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Seniors will also appreciate the Medicare Part D provision that helps fill the "doughnut hole" by requiring drug companies to discount brand-name drugs and biologics by 50 percent for people who have reached the gap in their coverage and raising the initial limit for Medicare drug coverage by $500 in 2010. Preventive screenings for older adults would also be covered at 100 percent with no deductible or co-pay, as would an annual "wellness visit." The bill also promises to improve health care quality and lower costs by expanding innovative pilot programs in care coordination, chronic disease management, disease prevention, and reducing hospital re-admissions.

While the legislative process is built on compromise, the cost of inaction--in dollars and in lives--is unacceptably high. In the final analysis, NCOA believes that this bill is good for America's interests. We urge all members of the conference committee to seize the historic opportunity before them, and help America meet the health care needs of all its people.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. NCOA is a national voice for older Americans--especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged--and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their communities. For more information, visit www.ncoa.org.

SOURCE National Council on Aging
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