Health Care Reform

AARP Applauds Senators’ Promise to Close Medicare Doughnut Hole

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–December 15, 2009.  Last night, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to thank him for publicly committing to close the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole in a final health care reform bill. Closing this dangerous gap in coverage has been a top priority for AARP throughout the health care debate. During a colloquy on the Senate floor yesterday, Reid joined Senators Max Baucus and Chris Dodd in committing to meet the President’s pledge of closing the gap by 2019. Rand’s letter to the Majority Leader follows:

December 14, 2009

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-221, Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Leader Reid:

Thank you for your commitment—and that of Chairmen Baucus and Dodd—to closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole” by 2019 during the upcoming House-Senate conference committee on health reform legislation. We understand, given Senate constraints, that this action must wait until conference.

As you know, millions of seniors are being overwhelmed by skyrocketing out-of-pocket drug costs. Too many are going without the drugs they desperately need, which can lead to more serious health problems and higher long-term costs—both for them and for our health care system as a whole. In Nevada alone, 12 percent of those enrolled in Part D fall into the doughnut hole every year. For these reasons, closing the coverage gap is a critical element of health reform and will help to constrain costs throughout the system.

We appreciate your leadership in developing and advancing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the Senate. This bill will strengthen Medicare by eliminating cost barriers to preventive care, reform Medicare’s payment and delivery system to promote care coordination, and reduce hospital infections and preventable readmissions. Moreover, through critical insurance market reforms and the establishment of exchanges, this bill will give the uninsured and small businesses access to quality affordable plans. The legislation also includes important provisions to strengthen home and community-based care and to assist individuals in saving to meet future long-term care needs.

With your commitment to closing the doughnut hole in conference, consistent with the President’s pledge, and the many positive features referenced above, AARP is pleased to support your efforts to obtain cloture, and urges timely passage of this legislation by the Senate.

We look forward to working with you in conference to finalize health care reform legislation that strengthens Medicare for current and future generations, and which ensures that all Americans can obtain affordable coverage—particularly those aged 50 to 64—who face the most difficulty securing coverage they can afford in the individual and small group markets.

Addison Barry Rand