July 27, 2011
Diverse Elders Coalition Urges President Obama, Congressional Leaders to Protect Seniors’ Access to Home Healthcare
WASHINGTON — In a July 21 letter addressed to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Members of Congress, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) and members of the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) — a group of national organizations dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for our nation’s diverse aging communities — expressed strong opposition to implementing a co- payment requirement for Medicare homecare health services. The groups stated particular concern for the impact a co-pay would have on the nation’s aging racially and ethnically diverse and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) populations. Of greatest concern to the DEC members is the financial impact a co-pay would have on the populations they represent, particularly considering that the average income for a Medicare beneficiary in 2009 was $22,000. The letter notes that because beneficiaries of Medicare home health services are unable to seek employment outside the home and dependent upon Medicare to pay for their health costs, imposing a co-pay would do further financial harm to many seniors who can scarcely afford to support themselves. The groups are urging the President and Congress to focus on eliminating fraud and abuse within the Medicare program in order to reduce healthcare costs, instead of implementing a mandatory co-pay on seniors. The DEC actively supports efforts to reduce Medicare fraud and abuse among its members, and promotes several cost-effective home health programs which assist patients in identifying and treating health issues before there is a need for the level of care Medicare provides. Excerpts from the letter include: “Racially and ethnically diverse and LGBT older adults would face tremendous difficulty if a co-Âpay were added to Medicare home health services. The many members of the populations represented by the DEC have endured lifetimes of discrimination, lower levels of educational attainment, and low-Âwage employment. Despite lifetimes of hard work, they enter old age with little in the way of savings”¦ Adding a co-Âpay requirement to Medicare home health services would be a devastating financial blow to many diverse elders.” ”[The undersigned members of the DEC] realize the United States needs to carefully manage its spending and that the entire nation will have to sacrifice. However, it is possible to manage the budget deficit without placing an overwhelming burden on the backs of older adults. When determining our nation’s financial priorities, please keep in mind that many older adults rely on government programs as their sole source of income and health care.” Letter signatories include the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), National Caucus and Center on Black Aged (NCBA), National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE) and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).