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McCaskill: Health Reform Needs to Strengthen Medicare Benefits and Protect Seniors

Press Release

Location: Washington, D.C.

This week, a bipartisan vote in the Senate Finance Committee marked the next step toward combining two versions of health insurance reform legislation in the Senate. As the two bills -- the Finance Committee's newly passed bill and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill passed this summer -- are combined into one version to be sent to the Senate floor for a vote, U.S. Senator McCaskill is focused on ensuring that waste-cutting reforms remain in the combined bill in order to strengthen Medicare. Without currently proposed reforms, Medicare will run out of money by 2017.

"I've watched my mother rely on Medicare for years and have seen how vital it is for her to remain independent. As this legislation moves forward, we must ensure that reforms are paid for and will improve benefits to our seniors," McCaskill said.

Having spent the month of August holding events around the state to listen to Missourians' concerns and to answer their questions about health insurance reform, McCaskill understands that a major point most people can agree on is ensuring our seniors can rely on Medicare for years to come. However, there is also a great deal of misinformation about how to achieve reform, strengthen Medicare, and bring down the deficit.

As the Senate combines the two bills, McCaskill says the final legislation must:

Preserve and strengthen Medicare -- Without reforms that root out waste in the program, Medicare could exhaust its funding by 2017. More than $700 million in waste and fraud has already been identified.

Cut high prescription drug costs -- The current Medicare Part D drug coverage gap called the "Donut Hole" costs seniors an average of $4,080 per year; health insurance reform would reduce that cost by as much as 50 percent.

Make preventative services free -- With health insurance reform, seniors would be eligible for free preventative care services, such as mammograms and colonoscopy screenings, by the elimination of deductibles, copayments or other cost-sharing fees.

End overpayments and waste -- Television ads for medical devices subsidized by Medicare highlight opportunities for companies to profit off of Medicare. In fact, Medicare has been overcharged by as much as $4,018 for scooters when they cost suppliers only $1,048. In some cases, beneficiaries receive Medicare subsidized devices that they either do not need or that are not the best option for that individual.

Curb costly, unnecessary programs -- Some Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in the private Medicare Advantage program. However, despite there being no evidence that the care under the program is superior, it comes at a cost of 14 percent more than traditional Medicare. By enforcing better efficiency in this program, Medicare could save more than $100 billion in the next ten years, which would help lengthen the life of the program.

McCaskill continued, "Passing legislation of this significance is challenging, but I remain optimistic in my fight for a final version of a bill that will truly improve Medicare coverage not only for Missouri's current seniors, but for those in years to come."

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