Congressman Michael Arcuri, in conjunction with the AARP, held a “teletown hall meeting” with more than 5,800 constituents on Wednesday morning to discuss the Health Care Reform Package that is currently being discussed by Congress.
Congressman Michael Arcuri, in conjunction with the AARP, held a “teletown hall meeting” with more than 5,800 constituents on Wednesday morning to discuss the Health Care Reform Package that is currently being discussed by Congress. The bill, listed as HR-1427, was originally submitted in March by California Congressman Henry Waxman, and supported by Arcuri, seeks to provide healthcare coverage for the more than 46 million Americans who are currently uninsured, while maintaining and stabilizing the private healthcare insurance coverage of those who are satisfied with their existing program. Arcuri spoke with constituents and fielded their questions and concerns regarding the existing Medicare program and what lies ahead for senior citizens in regards to the health care system.
With that in mind, the AARP has begun a program called Health Action Now which was created with the goal of urging Congress and the Obama Administration to work together to pass meaningful health reform, and to do it now despite the poor economic climate in the country.
“A bad economy does not mean that we can’t afford to fix the health care system,” said Erin Mitchell, AARP N.Y. associate state director of Community Outreach. “What it really means is that we can’t afford not to.”
The AARP is pushing for Congress to keep in mind the needs of its aging baby boomer population by including language in the final health care reform package that addresses the needs of people over 50. They are seeking to ensure Medicare’s strength in the future, including the closure of the Medicare Part D coverage gap (known as the “doughnut hole”), by creating a transitionary benefit to prevent the cost of hospital readmissions. More than 20 percent of people currently on Medicare end up back in the hospital within 30 days of their release due to inadequate follow-up procedures. The drain on the healthcare system and on the taxpayers grows as those figures continue to climb.
“I am a firm supporter of this legislation,” said Arcuri in response to questions on the issue, “Keeping people out of the hospital should not only be about keeping costs down, but about keeping people healthier. If we can treat people in their homes with this transitional package, it not only keeps costs down, it increases the quality of life for the person being treated and their families.”
In conjunction with this, the AARP is seeking an increase in Medicaid funding and eligibility for both home and community based services, so that older Americans are able to remain in their homes and avoid costly institutions such as hospitals, nursing home facilities and other long-term care facilities, while continuing to have access to necessary health care.
Arcuri assured constituents that Congress is seeking to retain the right for people to maintain healthcare that they are happy with, but provide realistic alternatives for those who are without coverage. “This program should be available if people choose to use it, not as the only option for health care coverage,” he said. Citing the fact that if the proposed bill is passed into law it may ultimately also decrease the costs of private health care insurance. “The increased competition among insurance companies will drive costs down, as they will be seeking to retain their customers and attract new ones,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Bill HR-1427 also seeks to bring the soaring costs of prescription drugs down, along with creating a system for the approval of generic versions of biologic drugs used in the treatment of cancer and other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Arcuri acknowledged that the current health care system does not work for a variety of reasons, including waste, fraud and the abuse of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“We are the greatest nation in the world, yet our healthcare system is far from the best,” Arcuri said, citing the fact that the United States ranks only 17 in the world for infant survival rates. “It is just wrong that so many of the citizens of this country are without adequate health care, or any health care coverage at all,” he continued, “And people should not have to go without other necessities such as food or rent payments in order to pay for health care.” A poll taken during the teletown hall session found that 41 percent of the constituents tuned in have delayed seeking medical attention in many situations due to the high cost of treatment.
Arcuri urged people to contact their elected officials at the local, state and national levels and urge them to continue their work on redefining the health care system in America. “The aim of the Congress is to make things better for Americans. To give them the opportunity to seek medical care when it is needed, and to be able to take steps to exercise preventive medical treatment in order to stay healthy.”
For more information on AARP’s health reform priorities, visit http://www.aarp.org/governmentwatch.