Senator John Kerry (D - Mass.), a senior member of the Finance Committee, introduced legislation today that would renew the push to end Medicare discrimination by giving all beneficiaries equal access to health care.
The Equal Access to Medicare Options Act of 2012 would give beneficiaries who are disabled or who have kidney failure the same Medicare choices as everyone else and prevent Medigap insurers from discriminating against beneficiaries based on their health status.
Medigap plans provide vital assistance to Medicare beneficiaries in paying Medicare cost-sharing. Ensuring access to these policies would help all beneficiaries fill the "gaps" in Original Medicare coverage to avoid massive out-of-pocket expenses.
"Health reform provided us with the best opportunity in decades to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their health status or age, have access to affordable, top-quality health insurance," said Sen. Kerry. "But there's still some discrimination within Medicare that is preventing all beneficiaries from being treated equally. That's got to end and I'll continue to push this bill forward until it does."
Senator Kerry has been a long-time supporter of working to improve Medigap supplemental coverage and affordability. Last year, Kerry introduced legislation to improve consumer protections by raising the minimum percentage of premium dollars that must go toward medical care, not executive compensation or administrative costs. In 2010, Kerry, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), penned a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting corrective action to protect seniors with Medigap supplemental coverage from unnecessary rate increases.
The Equal Access to Medicare Options Act of 2012 would:
extend guaranteed issuance of Medigap policies to all Medicare beneficiaries rather than limiting it to those 65 years and older, significantly improving coverage options and affordability for beneficiaries with disabilities or end-stage renal disease;
give guaranteed issuance to Medicare Advantage enrollees if they decide to switch to Original Medicare during an open enrollment period, offering beneficiaries the flexibility to adjust their coverage as changes to their plans are made;
provide guaranteed issuance to dual-eligibles, those who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, who lose their Medicaid coverage and find themselves in Original Medicare without the cost protections of Medicaid and without supplemental coverage options; and
allow, for the first time, beneficiaries with end-stage renal disease to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans.
The Equal Access to Medicare Options Act of 2012 is endorsed by nearly 50 major health care advocacy and industry groups, including the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Easter Seals, the National Kidney Foundation, and the National Council on Independent Living. The complete list of supporting organizations is attached.