Thursday, December 24, 2009
December 24, 2009
After decades of delays, heart disease and stroke patients can look forward to meaningful reforms in our health care system with today’s historic vote in the Senate for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We are gratified the Senate has given Americans a holiday to remember with approval of a bill which, while still imperfect, will benefit patients and their families as they struggle to cover the cost of medical care. Although much more work lies ahead to fix our broken health care system and ensure quality, affordable care for all Americans, this bill lays the groundwork to expand coverage to the uninsured, place an increased emphasis on preventing disease and improve the delivery of care – all measures that will enable us to reduce soaring health care costs and relieve the stress and anxiety of patients who have run out of options in securing quality and affordable health care.
Senate passage of a health care reform bill is an important and necessary milestone; however, we recognize there are more hurdles to overcome in the weeks ahead. Differences between the House and Senate bills must be ironed out in order to complete this monumental effort and produce the strongest bill possible for meeting the needs of heart disease and stroke patients. The American Heart Association looks forward to working with House and Senate leaders to improve the final bill and see health care reform over the finish line early in the new year.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
- Prohibiting insurance companies from denying or dropping coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition;
- Prohibiting insurance companies from charging women and those with pre-existing conditions higher premiums and limits the amount more that insurance companies can charge older Americans for their coverage;
- Abolishing lifetime caps and unreasonable annual limits in insurance coverage;
- Protecting families from medical bankruptcy by limiting out-of-pocket costs to $5,800 for an individual or $11,600 for a family. Low and moderate-income families would have lower caps on the amount they would have to spend for their out-of-pocket costs;
- Requiring that essential categories of services be covered, including hospital and doctors visits, emergency care, preventive services, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative care;Requiring all private health plans and Medicare to cover preventive services with no deductible or other cost-sharing;
- Requiring that health plan networks include an adequate number and type of providers; and
- Requiring that consumers be given uniform, understandable information about their health plan coverage, costs, and quality.
The AHA believes that the many patient-centered provisions of the Senate legislation are a significant step towards meaningful health reform and encourages all Senators to support the key procedural votes needed to allow the Senate to pass its bill so progress can continue.
Tell your Senators to put patients first by voting "YES" on the three critical upcoming procedural votes by visiting http://www.heartsforhealthcare.org/ today!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
The American Heart Association is continuing to review the Senate health care reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, we know you’re hearing many confusing and contradictory claims about this legislation, and we’d like to serve as a resource to you in understanding the facts about health care reform.
Question: I’ve heard that the bill will cut Medicare benefits and deprive seniors of the care they need. Is this true?
Answer: Nearly half of all people who have heart disease or stroke are over age 60 so the American Heart Association clearly understands and believes in the need to protect Medicare. Our assessment of the Senate bill, relying on the various sources of objective analysis of its provisions, is that it would not cut Medicare benefits and would instead improve coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. For instance, the Senate bill would eliminate cost-sharing for preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries, provide a new annual “wellness visit” for seniors, and reduce the coverage gap (or “donut hole”) in prescription drug coverage that many Medicare beneficiaries currently face. We’ve advocated for each of these improvements in the Medicare program.
Unfortunately, however, Medicare is growing at an unsustainable rate, and without any action, the Medicare trust fund is projected to become insolvent in 2017. The Senate bill therefore attempts to slow down the rate of growth of Medicare by reducing Medicare spending by about $500 billion over 10 years. According to the Medicare actuary, this will extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by up to 5 years. In addition, even with these savings, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that Medicare spending per beneficiary will still increase by 6% every year under the Senate bill.
1. The Senate bill accomplishes the Medicare savings in three major ways:
It reduces Medicare’s current overpayments to the private health insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans. According to the independent commission that advises Congress on Medicare payment policy, Medicare Advantage plans are overpaid, on average, by 14 percent, compared to traditional Medicare fee-for-service. By paying Medicare Advantage plans rates that are closer to what is paid for fee-for-service, Medicare will save $118 billion over the next 10 years.
2. The bill saves nearly $200 billion over 10 years by reducing the annual pay increases that hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers receive. But even with this savings, Medicare providers will still receive a slight increase in their reimbursement rates each year.
3. The bill saves about $100 billion over 10 years by reducing waste and inefficiency in Medicare and improving the quality of care that Medicare beneficiaries receive. Medicare currently pays based on the quantity of care delivered, rather than rewarding the quality of care. For example, the independent commission that advises Congress on Medicare policy has estimated that nearly 18 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who are hospitalized need to be re-hospitalized within 30 days. By encouraging the provision of better follow-up care and helping to prevent the need for re-admissions, the Senate bill would save $7 billion over 10 years.