Issue Position: Seniors
"Politicians need to understand what it's like for people on Medicare, who are lying in bed staring at a ceiling wondering if they are going to be able to pay the bills. We need to understand their concerns and aspirations if we are going to reshape Medicare in the 21st Century." - Senator Joe Biden
THE BIDEN PLAN: RESHAPING MEDICARE FOR THE 21st CENTURY
* Strengthening the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program: Senator Biden fought for years to expand the Medicare program to cover prescription drugs with a plan that would provide valuable coverage, be easy to use, and be affordable to most seniors. The present plan is complicated and has not done enough to keep drug costs down. Senator Biden is working to improve the plan by:
o Having the federal government directly negotiate for better drug prices from the pharmaceutical companies, as it does for other federal health programs. This should lower costs to consumers.
o Closing the gap in benefits - often called the "doughnut hole" - that occurs once a retiree hits $2,400 in coverage.
* Stabilizing Medicare Reimbursement Formulas: Senator Biden wants to stabilize the way Medicare determines reimbursement rates for physicians and other providers. As such, the Senator wants the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to study and report to Congress on replacing the use of the sustainable growth rate as a factor in determining the update for such payments with a factor that more fully accounts for changes in the unit costs of providing physicians' services.
* Ensuring Equitable Cost Sharing of Mental Health Services: Senator Biden supports treating mental health services the same as other health services and increasing the amount the government pays from 50 percent to 80 for outpatient psychiatric services under the Medicare program.
THE BIDEN RECORD: PROTECTION AND PREVENTION
* Promoting Breast Cancer Screening: Senator Biden helped lead the effort to require Medicare to cover annual mammograms for women over the age of 65, and to exempt these procedures from the annual Medicare Part B deductible.
* Ensuring Providers Are Available to Medicare Patients: Senator Biden has consistently fought to ensure an adequate supply of physicians and other Medicare providers for our nation's seniors by opposing arbitrary caps on reimbursement and working to reform the provider payment system. He also has worked to preserve Medicare indirect medical education payments to teaching hospitals, as many of these facilities provide crucial care to Medicare beneficiaries.
* Allowing Medicare Patients to Participate in Clinical Trials: Senator Biden worked hard to ensure Medicare recipients are able to participate in groundbreaking medical studies on new treatments and medications.
* Opposing Arbitrary Limits on Services: To ensure Medicare beneficiaries received proper treatment, Senator Biden fought to prevent arbitrary monetary limits on Medicare coverage of physical, occupational, and speech therapy services.
* Protecting Against Genetic Non-Discrimination: Senator Biden has fought to prohibit an issuer of a Medicare supplemental policy, on the basis of genetic information, from denying or conditioning coverage, or discriminating in the pricing of the policy, including the adjustment rates, for an eligible individual.
* Preserving Medicare for Retirees: When the future of Medicare came under attack and was threatened with its gradual demise, Senator Biden stood steadfast in defense of Medicare.