14 May 2009

May is Older Americans' Month

May is Older Americans' Month which gives us an opportunity to recognize the achievements of seniors and to highlight the needs of our over 50 citizens.

As Congress prepares to take up health care reform this summer, we are provided a historic opportunity to improve and strengthen Medicare, while advocating for universal health care.

The coming reform should provide a public health plan available to anyone who wishes to take part in it. Such a plan should make coverage more affordable with lower administrative costs and should have a standard benefit with continuous coverage so that individuals are not faced with annual decisions between many different plans.

It should provide opportunities for all Americans 55-64 to "buy into" Medicare since this group finds it extremely difficult to find affordable private health insurance. Or else, we should expand Medicare eligibility to commence at age 55.

Older Americans need an improved drug program, better preventive services, and other improved benefits.

Older Americans (50 or older) use more prescription drugs than any other age group and pay the highest prices in the word for prescription drugs. Currently, prices under Medicare Part D are at least 50% higher than prices for veterans, because the Veteran's Administration is allowed to bargain, while Medicare is not. The high prices force Plan D recipients into the infamous "donut hole" where they continue to pay premiums but receive no benefits. Also, without bargaining, Medicare is overpaying drug companies by 12%, further increasing the plan's long-term solvency problems.

If Medicare could negotiate directly with drug companies, the Part D program savings over the first eight years would be nearly $560-billion, enough to completely eliminate the "donut hole".

You're encouraged to contact your legislators by phone, e-mail, letter or personal visit to let them know that those of us 50 and older have an important stake in helath care reform. Also, take a moment to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and talk to your friends and family about the need for all of us to be engaged in this issue.

To stay up to date on this and other important issues visit the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans' website, or the national Alliance for Retired Americans' website.

No comments: