The Medicare Rights Center is very happy to have been awarded, in partnership with the Center for Medicare Advocacy (the Center), a one-year grant from The Retirement Research Foundation to protect access to quality health coverage for people with Medicare.
Since 1965, Medicare has guaranteed access to health care for older adults; since 1972, it has also guaranteed access to health care for people with disabilities. Today, some 57 million older Americans and people with disabilities rely on Medicare for inpatient and outpatient care and prescription drugs, and together with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid, the program builds health security for Americans of all ages.
These invaluable programs have come under fire as members of the current Congress and Administration have sought to dismantle the ACA and change the Medicaid program as we know it through legislation, regulation, and litigation. Such dismantling puts older adults and people with disabilities at risk: an estimated 4.5 million Americans are aged 55-64 and relying on ACA coverage before becoming Medicare-eligible, people with disabilities leverage ACA coverage while they wait the mandatory two years before their Medicare coverage begins, and 11 million Americans are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and could see their long-term care and other supports significantly reduced under ACA-related Medicaid cuts.
Fortunately, thanks to this new Retirement Research Foundation grant, Medicare Rights and the Center will work to protect and strengthen the Medicare program and prevent harmful policies that would erode health coverage and financial security for people with Medicare and their families. Through collaborative advocacy earlier in the year, Medicare Rights, the Center, and many others helped to successfully block passage of the American Health Care Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Better Care Reconciliation Act in the U.S. Senate—and to educate consumers, caregivers, professionals, and other stakeholders on the importance of the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid. Medicare Rights and the Center will be able to continue this advocacy and education work, in light of new potential threats, over the coming year.
Unfortunately, despite the failure of certain health reform proposals over the summer, opportunities persist this fall and beyond for policymakers to pass portions of ACA repeal legislation and to otherwise scale back the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid. These include tax reform bills, add-ons to bills to extend Medicare legislation, and new legislation that seeks to shift costs to people with Medicare in ways that can easily fall under the radar, for instance through increases in home health or Extra Help copayments.
Cost-shifting proposals are also very possible, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services signaling interest in balance billing, premium support (i.e., vouchers that typically do not keep pace with health care inflation), raising the age of Medicare eligibility, and more. It also remains to be seen how far agencies under the current administration will go to deregulate Medicare Advantage and other private marketplaces, making it more difficult in some cases to protect older adults and people with disabilities from steep costs, marketing abuses, and other harms.
In all of these scenarios, Medicare Rights and the Center for Medicare Advocacy are seen as leaders in protecting older Americans, and our new Retirement Research funding helps ensure that this work can continue.