Connecticut is home to nearly 500,000 seniors, and this population will continue to increase over the next 20 years. Our seniors have worked hard their entire lives, paid their taxes, and deserve our support. As Connecticut's U.S. Senator, I will fight to honor the hard work and service of our senior citizens, and the obligations we've made to them.
As Attorney General, I have confronted and defeated con artists and crooks who have tried to take advantage of our senior citizens. I've taken on the big insurance companies and the big drug companies to defend our seniors' access to health care and to make sure nursing homes are both safe and of consistently high quality:
* Protecting Seniors from Fraud. I have worked to protect seniors from telemarketing scams and other frauds. On their behalf, I helped create a free "Consumer University" course to give our elderly men and women the skills they needed to identify and avoid dishonest schemes. I helped set up a program where seniors could volunteer to help other seniors avoid scams and recover lost funds. My office has assisted dozens of seniors in recovering money lost through these schemes, with cases ranging from a woman stuck with a $30 phone bill to a man tricked into buying $10,000 worth of junk merchandise.
* Ensuring Access to Medicare Benefits. The Health Care Advocacy Unit in my office has assisted seniors with their Medicare benefits, helping to resolve billing disputes with managed care companies while recovering more than $740,000 for illegally billed services and denied claims for seniors and other residents involved in disputes with these companies. We also assisted seniors in receiving the significant cost reductions to which they were entitled under Medicare.
* Fighting Deceptive Advertising. In conjunction with 10 other Attorneys General, I recovered more than $500,000 for Connecticut in a settlement against Telebrands Corp. for exploiting seniors with an allegedly ineffective and harmful hearing aid.
We must do more at the federal level to ensure that our seniors have the resources they need to live full and productive lives, even in retirement. As your U.S. Senator, these would be my priorities:
* Protecting Medicare and Social Security. Some politicians in Washington, grappling with runaway spending, are talking about cutting back Social Security and Medicare benefits. I support aggressive measures to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in all federal spending. But I will not and do not support any effort to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors.
* Reforming Nursing Homes. More than 25,000 Connecticut seniors live in nursing homes, and our nursing home regulations are inadequate, inconsistent, and ineffective. I've testified before Congress advocating stringent national efforts to reduce corruption and abuse, and to improve the quality of care provided in nursing homes. As a U.S. Senator, I will work to enact those proposed reforms.
* Negotiating Prescription Drug Prices. Both Republicans and Democrats gave away the federal government's right to negotiate for lower drug prices in Medicare. The result? A $200 billion sweetheart deal for the drug companies paid for by taxpayers. If we're serious about cutting health care costs, we've got to get serious about negotiating down drug prices.
* Prohibiting Drug Company Exploitation of Dual Eligibles. When Congress created the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003, they shifted all nine million Medicare beneficiaries already receiving drugs under Medicaid onto the new, more expensive program. The result of this accounting maneuver? A $30 billion windfall for the drug companies to provide the same drugs to the same people. I'll reverse this costly giveaway.
* Ending the Medicare Part D "Donut Hole". More than 47,000 Connecticut residents fall in the Medicare Part D coverage gap that limits their reimbursements for certain prescription drug costs. The new health reform legislation will fully close this gap by 2020, but that is too slow for seniors who cannot afford out-of-pocket costs today. As your U.S. Senator, I will fight to quickly put an end to the donut hole, ensuring that no Connecticut seniors are forced to go without the medicines they need.
* Building a National "Silver Alert" System. Because a missing senior -- no less than a missing child -- can be a family's worst nightmare, I supported the enactment of Connecticut's Silver Alert system for locating missing seniors. In the U.S. Senate, I will push for legislation establishing a standardized national alert system to ensure we can always respond rapidly to a loved one's disappearance.