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Health care for Older Americans

Andy Litsky | 1/27/2010, 11:42 a.m.

After a lifetime of hard work, no older American deserves to spend their later years struggling with medical bills €" and yet, millions are. Whether it€s being unable to afford medications because they€ve fallen into the Medicare coverage gap or €doughnut hole€ or being denied affordable coverage based on age or a pre-existing condition, older Americans need Congress to act to ensure they can get the health care they need.

Since the beginning of the health care reform debate, AARP has been fighting for legislation that will protect guaranteed Medicare benefits, lower drug costs for seniors, crack down on insurance company abuses like denying affordable coverage because of age or medical history and prevent anyone from coming between a patient and their doctor.

As Congress continues to debate health care reform, we have made it clear to the President and Congress we are fighting for health care reform that ensures today€s seniors and future generations can get the health care they need by:

Strengthening Medicare: Health care reform must strengthen and improve Medicare by cracking down on waste and fraud so today€s seniors and future generations can continue to count on their guaranteed Medicare benefits. It must lower seniors drug costs by closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap or €doughnut hole€ which would provide 574,000 people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will no longer face having to pay thousands in out of pocket costs for their prescriptions.

Making Insurance Affordable: Health care reform must help the 260,000 people in the tri-state area between the ages of 50 to 64 cannot find affordable coverage. That€s why AARP is fighting for reforms that make existing coverage more affordable to those who have it, including putting a limit on premiums and how much individuals have to spend out of their own pockets. AARP also supports the creation of a national €Exchange€ where people who can€t afford health care €" regardless of medical history €" and small businesses would be able to find quality plans. Those who want to purchase insurance through the €Exchange€ but can€t afford to pay their premiums would be eligible for extra help.

Holding Insurers Accountable: Health care reform must stop abusive and discriminatory practices by insurance companies so they can no longer use age as an excuse to charge older Americans unaffordable premiums, deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition or take away promised benefits because someone gets sick. AARP is also fighting to eliminate annual and lifetime limits on how much care insurance companies are required to cover so older Americans aren€t left without coverage when they need it most.

Living Independently: Health reform must improve long-term care so all Americans can live independently in their homes and communities by improving long-term care services and supports by establishing the voluntary Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program and expanding access to the services and supports people need to live in their homes and communities as they age or become disabled by increasing federal funding, eligibility and options under Medicaid.

AARP is working diligently with members of the House and Senate to ensure that our priorities are included in any final health care reform bill. And, until the debate on health reform is over, we will continue to fight with the strength of 90,000 AARP members in the District of Columbia to pass a bill that will protect Medicare and crack down on insurance abuses so all older Americans and their families have access to stable, quality healthcare.

It€s time we had health care worth fighting for. And that time is now.