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Monday, December 28, 2009

Urge House Not to Limit Senior Citizens’ Choice to Spend Own Money to Ensure Access to Life-Saving Health Care

Senior citizens’ ability to use their own money, if they choose, to avoid involuntary denial of medical treatment under Medicare could be severely limited by a provision in the Reid health care bill.

Section 1175 of the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives November 7. The Senate is now debating and amending its own version of the bill (which unfortunately includes the same provision as its Section 1175), and once the Senate version is passed, the House will have to vote again, either on the Senate vesion or on a compromise between the two chamber's bills proposed by a conference committee. Section 1175 of the House bill would change current law, which now prevents the federal government from limiting the right of senior citizens voluntarily to add their own money of top of the government Medicare contribution so as to be able to obtain health insurance plans under the “Medicare Advantage” program that are less likely to deny treatment. Instead, Section 1175 would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in her unlimited discretion, to refuse to allow such plans to be offered to senior citizens.

Neither the House nor the Senate provision was in bills reported by the committees of either chamber; at the last minute, both were slipped into the versions sent to the floor for action.

The fundamental question is whether seniors will be prevented from using their own money, if they wish, to gain access to insurance that will not ration medical treatment. The significant cuts that the Senate and House health care bills make in Medicare increase the importance of protecting the right of older Americans, if they choose, to use their own money to save their own lives. It is critical to change Section 1175 of the House bill to keep this alternative available.

For additional information on this issue, and on other provisions in the House bill that threaten to ration lifesaving medical treatment, visit here.
( This alert appears on the NRLC web site)

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