Thursday, November 20, 2008

MS Activist Shares Story on Living in the Medicare 24-Month Waiting Period

Congress and the Obama administration should end the two-year wait that people deemed too sick to work by the government face before qualifying for Medicare, lawmakers and leading advocacy groups said [last] Wednesday...

Medicare covers the disabled and older people, and at any time, 1.5 million disabled people find themselves waiting to qualify. About 40 percent are uninsured during part of that wait, while 25 percent are without insurance during the entire 24 months. Of the rest, some get coverage through Medicaid, but many end up depleting their savings on private insurance and medical bills...

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would eliminate the waiting period gradually over 10 years. The proposal also would set up a process so people with life-threatening illnesses could get coverage right away....

The legislation would solve the kind of predicament that 45-year-old Yvonne Brown of Waldorf, Md., had to face. She had a steady job as an audio engineer for a radio network. But in 2000 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable disease in which the immune system attacks the nerves. She was granted Social Security disability payments in 2003, only to find out that she would have to wait two more years for Medicare.

Brown said she sold her house to pay for medical bills, but eventually wound up homeless. She was reduced to sleeping in her car because shelters were concerned that by accepting her, they would become liable for the costs of her treatment. One type of MS medication was costing $2,200 a month.

"It is an irresponsible and demeaning system that declares people disabled, and then forces them to wait two years for health insurance," Brown.

Although she now has Medicare — and a home thanks to subsidized housing — Brown said she still owes medical bills. "I am still angry and frustrated for the two years that my life was falling apart," she said.

This is an excerpt from a November 12 article in AP by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. Click here to read the full story.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Fate of Stem Cell Research in the New Congress & Administration

Federal funding for stem cell research is expected to change, as President-elect Obama has made clear his intent to overturn the funding restriction set by President Bush. Currently, federal funding for stem cell research can only be applied to human embryonic stem cell lines derived prior to August 9, 2001. It is possible that shortly after President-elect Obama's inauguration on January 20, he will sign an Executive Order (EO) to remove the current barriers to funding stem cell research. Click here for more information on the current state of federal funding for stem cell research at the National Institute of Health (NIH).

The Post-Election Outlook

On Tuesday, November 4, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) was elected to serve as the 44th President of the United States. President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress will inherit a challenging agenda that includes a troubled economy, a war on terror, and the desperate need for health care reform.

A new Congress and the Obama Administration could make health care reform a top priority in 2009. But because of the competing demands for attention and resources, a comprehensive health care reform package is not guaranteed to move in the 111th Congress.

People living with MS and other chronic diseases have a stake in shaping the health care reform agenda, and the time to have your voice heard is now. To ensure that Congress keeps healthcare as a top priority on its agenda, it is important that your legislators hear from you today! Without your input, health care reform could be pushed aside.

Take action today!
Call the Capitol switchboard at 1-800-828-0498 to speak with your legislator's office about this issue.

Many organizations have already developed health care reform principles to help frame the broader issue for legislators to consider. Click here to read the National MS Society's Health Care Reform Principles. Please share the Society's principles with your elected officials, health care providers, friends, and family.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the News: Baucus Outlines Health Care Plan

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus outlined a health care agenda Wednesday that would expand coverage to all Americans, emphasize increased quality and lower costs, trim waste in federal health programs and rebalance their financing.

Baucus, D-Mont., whose panel has partial jurisdiction over health care issues, is essentially putting down a marker for working with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama, who also wants to overhaul the health care system.

Baucus would make Medicare available to anybody 55 or over, compared to 65 currently. He would set up a “health insurance exchange” that would create a marketplace for the uninsured to buy into plans. He also would expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to all children who live in households with income below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Those with existing coverage would be able to maintain it as is...

Baucus’s plan also would take steps to refocus the health care system on primary care. The proposal also would focus on eliminating fraud, waste and abuse in public health care programs and “address overpayments” to private insurers in the Medicare Advantage program...

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Baucus’ paper was an important step toward affordable health care for all Americans.

This is an excerpt from a November 12 article in Congressional Quarterly by Drew Armstrong. Find the full article here.