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Health Care Reform Moves One Step Closer to Bringing Relief to Idaho Families

AARP Idaho Says Now Is the Time for State Congressional Delegation to Work to Improve Legislation

BOISE, Idaho, Dec. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Before the sun was up in Idaho this morning, families across the state buckling under soaring health care costs received a glimmer of hope from Washington, D.C. With the Senate passage of critical health care reform legislation, AARP says the Idaho congressional delegation can play a key role in making the bill stronger.

"The Senate passage of this bill is a crucial step in the right direction for Idaho families, businesses and retirees struggling with skyrocketing health care premiums and prescription drug costs," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho. "Now it's time for Idaho's members of Congress to step up to the plate and work to make this bill even stronger."

In Idaho, news of the Senate passage couldn't come at a better time. With a 9% unemployment rate, people are losing their health care along with their jobs. For those that do have jobs, the cost of health care is proving too great - 88% of the Idaho's 221,000 uninsured are employed. While 27% of the state's 212,000 Medicare beneficiaries are stuck in the dangerous gap in Medicare drug coverage known as the doughnut hole - forcing many to skip their medications or cut pills due to cost. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch did not vote in favor of the legislation.

The bill moves to prevent denials of coverage due to health status and limit insurance companies from charging older Americans much more for coverage because of their age. It also begins to close the Medicare doughnut hole -- Senate leaders have committed that a final bill will close the gap entirely by 2019. In addition, the Senate bill adds important new Medicare benefits, like free preventive care, and encourages states to provide more home and community-based long-term care services and supports instead of costlier institutional care.

"Just in time for the holidays, Idaho residents who've been unable to afford health premiums, have seen a job loss mean the loss of benefits, and are unable to keep pace with rising health care costs are seeing real progress on an issue that affects so many," added Wordelman. "While Idaho's members of Congress have been playing partisan politics - their home state has been in a health care crisis - now they can deliver the help Idahoans deserve."

The legislation will now move to a conference committee where the Senate and the House will merge their respective bills. It is expected that health care reform legislation will be enacted early in the New Year.


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