AARP Urges Passage of Critical Health and Unemployment Support

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–March 2, 2010.  Today, the Senate continues to debate legislation that would extend critical benefits to help millions of Americans who are struggling with unemployment and a lack of health insurance. The legislation would also protect access to physicians for people in Medicare. A statement from AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond follows:

“AARP strongly supports the extension of health and financial support for Americans and their families who continue to face devastatingly high unemployment rates coupled with a loss of health coverage. The legislation being debated by the Senate today includes several key provisions we believe are critical to encourage job growth and provide assistance to millions of workers struggling to get back on the job.

“The package before the Senate will extend unemployment insurance benefits provided by Congress last year. These benefits are especially vital to older workers who want to work but cannot get a job, are facing diminished retirement resources and who have less time to recover from these losses. The legislation also extends subsidized COBRA, a federal law which helps workers who lose their jobs maintain health coverage for themselves and their families.

“In addition, the package includes a provision extending fiscal relief to states for essential health care services that promote job growth and help enable older Americans to live in their own homes and stay out of expensive nursing homes. Many states are facing huge budget deficits and are struggling to cover Medicaid-eligible families and individuals. These enhanced Medicaid dollars will help people who lost private insurance with their jobs in our struggling economy and maintain home- and community-based services that middle class Americans rely on after spending all of their savings on long-term care.

“The bill would also turn back a devastating 21 percent cut to Medicare’s reimbursement for doctors caring for people in Medicare for seven months. This cut threatens to undermine access to and choice of physicians for millions of people in Medicare, and many physicians may choose to no longer accept new Medicare patients if Congress does not address it immediately.

“While we applaud this provision, we also urge Congress to end the temporary patches and put in place a new physician payment system that provides people in Medicare with better access to their doctors and greater value for their health care dollar.

“America continues to face tough economic times. This is especially difficult for older workers, who face longer periods of unemployment than other groups and who are struggling to pay for basic necessities and maintain access to more affordable health coverage. We look forward to working with Congress to help the millions of older Americans, as well as those who want to work but cannot get a job, as they struggle in today’s economic downturn.