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Groups Call On Senator Charles Schumer to Lead Senate In Strengthening Medicare

Groups Join Forces - Urge Reinvestment of Billions into Medicare Program

ALBANY, N.Y., Nov. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AARP NY, Medical Society of the State of New York, and StateWide Senior Action Council have joined forces to call on Senator Charles Schumer to lead the U.S. Senate in strengthening Medicare by protecting beneficiary access to doctors, stopping steep spikes in Medicare premiums, and helping lower income persons pay for prescription drugs. These improvements can be made by cutting back on excess payments to private insurance companies. The groups want to see the Senate take action similar to the House of Representatives which recently passed legislation to protect beneficiaries and eliminate billions in excess payments to private insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans.

By reducing the excess payments given to private insurance plans each year, Congress can protect patient access to physicians by stopping payment cuts scheduled for 2008 as well as stabilize premiums and improve Medicare's low-income programs.

"Senator Schumer has continually been a champion for health care and issues important to older New Yorkers. His leadership is now needed to keep the Medicare program affordable to participants," said AARP New York State Director, Lois Aronstein. "Excess payments to private insurers through Medicare need to stop and the money needs to be channeled into maintaining access to doctors, keeping down Medicare premium increases and improving assistance for lower income beneficiaries."

"Senior access to needed health care in New York is already being threatened by a confluence of factors that make it difficult for physicians to provide care," said Dr. Robert B. Goldberg, DO, President of the Medical Society of the State of New York. "A major problem is the fact that Medicare reimbursement has not kept pace with the significant inflation in practice costs, particularly medical liability insurance costs. The cuts scheduled for 2008 and 2009, left unaddressed, would make this problem drastically worse. Senator Schumer has been a strong advocate of protecting senior access to care, and we urge him to continue these efforts."

"New York StateWide Senior Action Council, is proud of Senator Schumer's efforts to protect seniors. We ask him to continue this by shifting excess payments away from MA plans, putting the funds back into physicians' reimbursement for treating seniors and into reducing premium increases," said John Eadie, NY StateWide Senior Action Council Executive Director.

Medicare premiums have doubled since 2000. At the same time, doctors are facing Medicare payment cuts of 10% beginning in January. This cut could result in millions of older Americans losing access to their doctors who will likely have to limit the number of patients treated under Medicare. On the other hand, the Senate could reduce the billions in excess payments private insurance companies in Medicare receive, commonly known as Medicare Advantage or MA, and use those funds to keep doctors in Medicare and keep premiums affordable.

Reducing excess payments to private insurance companies in Medicare would also provide funds to raise the asset test limit for the Medicare Drug Program's Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) and the Part B low-income assistance program (MSP). Currently, the asset limit for LIS is set firmly at $11,700 for individuals, and for MSPs it's even lower - $4000 in most cases, making millions of low-income seniors who have modest retirement savings ineligible for subsidy under Medicare's prescription drug program.

More than 2.8 million New Yorkers participate in Medicare. On average, Medicare will make excess payments in the millions to MA private plans operating in New York in 2007. on average, MA private plans are paid 12 percent more than it would cost to care for the same patient in the traditional Medicare program - at the expense of taxpayers, people in Medicare and Medicare's long-term solvency.

AARP has over 2.6 million members in New York State. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The not-for-profit Medical Society of the State of New York is the state's principal professional organization for physicians and, in carrying out its mission, represents the interests of patients and physicians to assure quality healthcare services for all.

NY StateWide Senior Action Council educates and advocates for older New Yorkers to live independently in home and community. This includes advocacy for health care, affordable prescription drugs, adequate housing, and healthy living. StateWide operates a Patient's Rights / Medicare / EPIC Helpline and education, counseling, and monitoring activities for these programs.

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