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More Stable and Secure Health Care For Seniors

Terrell McSweeny, Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President, discusses the Middle Class Task Force meeting that just concluded on seniors and health reform.

Vice President Biden and members of the Middle Class Task Force just concluded a health care reform discussion in Alexandria, Virginia. Along with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle, and Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, the Vice President led a discussion with older Americans on how reforming health care will lower costs, cut waste, create stability and improve quality for them.

As health reform advances this summer, it’s important to recognize the benefits for two key groups that are all too familiar with the toll rising costs of health care are taking on their security: seniors and early retirees aged 50-64.

Seniors face increasing health care costs while living off of fixed incomes – a situation that often forces them to make tough decisions– like cutting doses of important drugs to save money. The Medicare Doughnut Hole – the gap in prescription drug coverage that millions of seniors fall into- costs seniors a total of $15 billion dollars a year.

Health care reform will help close that gap by providing deep discounts for medications for seniors who are stuck in that hole and allowing seniors to access more affordable generic drugs. Health reform will also ensure Medicare beneficiaries access to their doctors, fund 100% of preventative care, and cut the bureaucracy between seniors and their doctors by simplifying paperwork, computerizing medical records, and making sure that forms are easy to read for seniors. Health reform will prevent any insurance company from denying coverage based on a person’s underlying health status, and it will end discrimination that charges you more if you’re sick.

Americans aged 50-64 are often the most at vulnerable and at risk in the current health care system. Too young for Medicare, they experience sky high insurance premiums and costs because of their age. Premiums for 50-64 year olds buying coverage on the open market were three times that of their peers who were lucky enough to have employer coverage. And that’s for people who aren’t automatically excluded because of a pre-existing condition.

Health care reform will lower costs for 50-64 year old Americans by providing assistance to employer health plans to encourage them to cover recent retirees and by giving individuals access to an insurance exchange where participants will be able to compare prices of health plans – including a public plan - and decide which option is right for them.  Individuals will be eligible for help paying for insurance in the exchange based on their income. And in order to market a plan in the Exchange, insurance companies will have to comply with its rules: no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions; no discrimination based on age; and fair prices, for good benefits.

Everyone will have the security of knowing that if they lose their job, or if someone in their family develops a chronic disease or has a pre-existing condition, they will be able to find affordable health care for their families in the exchange. 
Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force are working to ensure that as Americans age, their care is stable and secure, affordable and effective.
Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President