Justice in Aging Statement on the American Health Care Act

By | Health Care, Medicaid, PRESS RELEASE | No Comments

Washington, DC (March 8, 2017) – This statement is from Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director at Justice in Aging, on the American Health Care Act:

“Republican lawmakers in the House have drafted an ACA replacement bill, the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), that is an attack on the health and long-term care needs of older adults. This bill makes health care more expensive, targeting older adults for the deepest cuts in services and the largest increases in cost.”

“We are particularly opposed to the Medicaid cuts at the heart of this bill.  The bill fundamentally changes the promise and structure of Medicaid by capping federal funding for the program at levels that, by design, will leave states without enough funds to meet the health and long-term care needs of older adults over time. Over 6 million older adults rely on Medicaid, and 2/3 of all Medicaid spending for older adults goes to essential long term care services in nursing homes and at home and in the community.  AHCA threatens the care of all of these seniors and the peace of mind of their families.”

“In addition, AHCA makes it harder for older adults age 55-64 to access health care coverage.  By freezing the Medicaid expansion, the bill takes care away from the many low-income older adults age 55-64 who rely on Medicaid to see their doctors and meet their medical needs before they qualify for Medicare. By allowing insurance companies to charge older adults more than 5 times as much for their care, the bill creates what is effectively an “age tax” that will make care for many older adults completely unaffordable.”

“AHCA makes these cuts to the health care of older adults in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. These tax cuts will negatively impact the solvency of the Medicare trust fund, harming the Medicare program for current beneficiaries and those who will rely on it in the future.”

“The American Healthcare Act conflicts with the President’s own promises that he would not touch the safety net upon which seniors rely.  Moreover, lawmakers are attempting to ram it through Congress, without hearings and without complete analysis of just how many millions of people will lose coverage under the plan.”

Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency. Through targeted advocacy, litigation, and the trainings and resources we provide to local advocates, we ensure access to the social safety net programs that poor seniors depend on, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

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Contact: Vanessa Barrington
510-256-1200 direct
vbarrington@justiceinaging.org

100 Natl Orgs tell Congress to Reject Medicaid Cuts

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Washington, DC—Today, the Medicare Rights Center, Justice in Aging, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, and 97 other national organizations sent a letter to Congressional leadership expressing grave concerns with proposals that would radically change Medicaid—a vital safety net that provides quality health care and services for millions of Americans, including 10 million older adults and people with disabilities who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.

Recent proposals put forward in Congress would completely restructure Medicaid’s finances, eligibility, and availability. Two ways of restructuring the program have risen to prominence: block grants and per-capita caps. While the precise workings of these proposals differ, both are designed to reduce federal support to state Medicaid programs. Cutting federal dollars will inevitably lead to fewer people covered, fewer services available, and higher health care costs for low-income families—putting older adults, people with disabilities, and their families at risk.

“Block grants and per capita caps are nothing more than cuts to Medicaid, reducing the dollars flowing to the states, rationing access to needed care, and threatening job opportunities and growth. These proposals are not focused on improving the Medicaid program, but instead put reducing federal spending over families’ needs. Therefore, we urge you to reject these structural changes to this vital safety net program,” the letter cautions.

“Medicaid caps are a Medicare cut—pure and simple. Block grants and per-capita caps threaten access to vital programs that help low-income older adults and people with disabilities afford their Medicare costs,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “With this help, people with Medicare can stretch already limited incomes to buy groceries, pay rent, heat their homes, and meet other basic needs. Capping Medicaid could quickly impoverish people with Medicare already struggling to make ends meet.”

“The destructive cuts to Medicaid that Congressional leaders plan will unfairly target older Americans who struggle to make ends meet,” said Kevin Prindiville, executive director of Justice in Aging. “They may be unable to visit their doctors, receive life-saving preventive care, or get the help they need to age at home and in their communities safely and in dignity.”

Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said, “Plans to cap Medicaid are driven by a desire to reduce federal support for low-income families and shift costs—not power—to states. Recent Medicaid proposals would hurt almost 1 in 5 families. States would get less Medicaid funding and, inevitably, provide less health coverage. Vulnerable children, people with disabilities, and older people will be disproportionately harmed. We hope thinking and caring leaders will oppose this regressive, national tragedy.”

Read the full letter.

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Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency.

The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., established in 1986, is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan law organization that provides education, advocacy and legal assistance to help older people and people with disabilities obtain fair access to Medicare and quality health care. The Center is headquartered in Connecticut and Washington, DC with offices throughout the country.

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Contact: Vanessa Barrington
510-256-1200 direct
vbarrington@justiceinaging.org

Medicare Rights Center – Mitchell Clark
212-204-6286
mclark@medicarerights.org

Center for Medicare Advocacy – Matthew Shepard
860-456-7790
mshepard@MedicareAdvocacy.org

Judge Allows Medicare Observation Status Appeal Rights Case to Proceed

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Feb. 10, 2017 – In a decision released on February 8, 2017, a federal judge allowed Medicare hospital patients seeking a right to appeal their placement on “outpatient observation status” to proceed with their lawsuit. The Barrows case, now called Alexander v. Cochran, is a proposed nationwide class action brought by individuals who were forced to pay up to $30,000 for post-hospital skilled nursing facility care because they had been classified as outpatients in observation status during their hospitalizations.

Although care provided to patients on observation status is indistinguishable from inpatient care, it does not count toward the three-day inpatient hospital stay requirement for Medicare coverage of nursing home care. This leaves beneficiaries with the burden of paying for extremely costly nursing and rehabilitative care themselves – or forces them to forgo necessary care.

The court addressed whether Medicare beneficiaries have a constitutionally protected interest in coverage of their hospitalizations as inpatients rather than as observation “outpatients.” If such an interest exists, beneficiaries could appeal their observation status through Medicare’s administrative review process, which they are presently not allowed to do.

The opportunity to appeal is critical because of the severe ramifications that can result from the observation status categorization. The late Martha Leyanna of Delaware, for example, had to pay thousands of dollars to a nursing home because her six-day hospitalization was classified as observation status and thus did not meet Medicare’s requirement of a three-day inpatient stay for coverage of post-hospital care.

The decision documents the plaintiffs’ evidence of how Medicare pressures hospitals, through audits and enforcement actions, to place more patients on observation status, and describes the dogged but unsuccessful efforts of individual plaintiffs to appeal by calling numerous offices and Congressional representatives.

Judge Michael P. Shea of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut concluded that genuine factual disputes remain about the extent to which commercial screening guides used by Medicare contractors and hospitals influence the outcome of patient status determinations. The judge also largely denied the government’s request to dismiss the case on two other grounds, allowing the case to proceed.

Alice Bers of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said “The decision is an important step in the establishment of a fair process for patients who risk having to pay thousands of dollars for necessary medical care or forgo that care altogether. Hospitals routinely appeal Medicare’s determination of whether a stay was inpatient or observation status. Older adults and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare for necessary health care should have the same right.”

In addition to attorneys from Justice in Aging, the plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from the Center for Medicare Advocacy, and the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The court ordered the parties to confer and submit a schedule for further proceedings by February 22, 2017.

Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency. Through targeted advocacy, litigation, and the trainings and resources we provide to local advocates, we ensure access to the social safety net programs that poor seniors depend on, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

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Contact: Vanessa Barrington
510-256-1200 direct
vbarrington@justiceinaging.org

Advocates Warn Congress of Dangerous Consequences of ACA Repeal and Delay for Seniors and People with Disabilities

By | PRESS RELEASE, Uncategorized | No Comments

OAKLAND – On January 13, 2017, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging, Medicare Rights Center and 65 other organizations that represent older adults and people with disabilities wrote Congressional leadership expressing grave concern about repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In particular, the organizations urge that any legislation to repeal the ACA be rejected unless it is accompanied by a detailed replacement plan that provides American families with equal or improved access to high-quality, affordable health coverage.

“Repealing the ACA without an immediate replacement could cause 30 million Americans who rely on expanded Medicaid and the individual market to lose health coverage. Over 4.5 million people ages 55 to 64 could lose coverage and the share of uninsured people in this age group could double—from 8% to 19%,” the letter cautioned.

Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director Judith Stein stressed that ACA repeal would also harm Medicare and Medicaid. “The Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid are all intertwined. Repealing ACA will reduce access to health care in myriad ways, with repercussions for most families throughout the country. It’s a dangerous prescription.”

Justice in Aging’s Executive Director Kevin Prindiville underscored the impact of ACA repeal on the most vulnerable older adults living in poverty. “By weakening Medicare and Medicaid, repealing the ACA would have tremendous, negative consequence for the health of all of the older adults in our communities – but especially the millions who are living in or near poverty. Instead of repealing the ACA, Congress should be working to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid and make health and long term care more affordable and accessible for all seniors.”

Medicare Rights Center’s President Joe Baker warned of the negative consequences of ACA repeal on people with Medicare. “The rush to repeal and delay the Affordable Care Act will take our nation backwards. Before the health law, seniors went without needed medications when they fell into the donut hole and people with disabilities had no affordable coverage during their two-year wait for Medicare. People with Medicare and their families cannot afford to take these costly steps back.”

Read the full letter

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The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., established in 1986, is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan law organization that provides education, advocacy and legal assistance to help older people and people with disabilities obtain fair access to Medicare and quality health care. The Center is headquartered in Connecticut and Washington, DC with offices throughout the country.

Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency.

The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives.

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Justice in Aging and Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation Offer Recommendations to Improve Non-Emergency Medical Transport for Older Adults

By | NEWS, News Releases, PRESS RELEASE | No Comments

November 3, 2016 (Oakland, CA) – A new report released today by the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation (the Center) and Justice in Aging outlines the importance of Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Services (NEMT) for older adults and people with disabilities, details the challenges faced by users and offers a series of recommendations based on promising state practices. The report, Medicaid Non-Emergency Medical Transportation: An Overlooked Lifeline for Older Adults, can be accessed at Justice in Aging and the Center.

Across the country, 7.1 million Americans rely on NEMT services to get to medical appointments. Yet, every year, an estimated 3.6 million Americans miss or delay health care because of difficulty accessing these critical services. NEMT is an important Medicaid benefit for the people who rely on it to visit their doctors, receive treatment for chronic conditions and travel to settings such as adult day health care. Considering that NEMT represents less than 1 percent of total state and federal Medicaid expenditures and has the potential to prevent much more costly medical care, it provides exceptional value for states.

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Settlement in Class Action against Social Security for Basing Disability Decisions on Disqualified Doctor’s Reports

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Oakland, CA—A settlement has been reached on behalf of approximately 6,500 California residents, most of them in the San Francisco Bay Area. The settlement will ensure that class members have the opportunity to have disability claims that were denied or discontinued reevaluated.  If approved by the court, it will be the first-ever settlement against the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide a large group of people with a remedy for its reliance on medical reports from a disqualified physician.

Lead Plaintiff Kevin Hart was devastated when he received notice from the Social Security Administration that he was no longer disabled after being examined by the doctor in question. “He didn’t even know me, he didn’t even look at me,” said Hart, describing the cursory examination he received that lasted less than 10 minutes and failed to note that he required a cane to walk.

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Justice in Aging Launches New Bay Area Project with Two New Attorneys

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Oakland, CA – Justice in Aging is pleased to announce a new outreach, education and advocacy project in the San Francisco Bay Area that will improve access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) for low-income seniors residing in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

SSI and IHSS are programs that provide an important lifeline to low-income older adults. SSI provides vital basic income support to extremely low-income older adults and people with disabilities to pay for food, shelter, and other necessities. In Alameda County 52,820 people rely on SSI, and Contra Costa County is home to 26,658 SSI recipients. IHSS is a life changing and life sustaining program for over 25,000 people in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The program provides personal care services to seniors and people with disabilities who need help with activities of daily living in order to remain at home and in their communities.

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Justice in Aging Welcomes Tracey Gronniger to Direct Economic Security Team

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WASHINGTON, DC.– Justice in Aging is pleased to welcome Tracey Gronniger to its Washington, DC office as Directing Attorney of the Economic Security Team. Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center), which also has offices in Los Angeles, and Oakland, CA, is a national legal advocacy organization that uses the power of law to fight senior poverty.

Tracey joins Justice in Aging after serving as senior staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission for ten years. She worked in the Bureau of Consumer Protection where she litigated a variety of cases to halt fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices, including actions to stop Medicare fraud schemes, government grant scams, and phony business opportunities. She also coordinated the Bureau’s Legal Services Collaboration and Every Community Initiative, which seeks to ensure that the agency meets the consumer protection needs of undeserved and at-risk consumers, including older Americans. Prior to joining the FTC Tracey served as an Associate at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, DC.

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