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New Yorkers Tell Congress “Medicare Needs More than a Patch”

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 By Michael Clifford/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY, Contact
May 13, 2008

Albany, NY — Nearly three million New Yorkers are bracing for another increase in their Medicare premiums. One New Yorker worried about how she will cope is Joan Powell, a widowed retiree. Speaking at the recent American Association of Retired Person (AARP) "Keep Medicaid Fair" forum in Albany, Powell explained that every time she gets a small increase in her Social Security check, it gets eaten up by increases elsewhere, like her Medicare premiums. She hopes Congress will look someplace else this year.

"Medicare has a fracture in it, so please try and fix it. And don't fix it on our backs; we really can't afford to pay out anymore. We're on fixed incomes —- we're really being bled."

Senior advocates believe Congress could begin to fix the problem by addressing a flaw in the way Medicare pays doctors.
Bill Hall, a physician at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, faults Congress for continuing to make do with the faulty system instead of tackling the bigger problem by updating the doctor reimbursement formula. Congress doesn't provide enough funding to pay doctors, he says, so patient premiums have to go up to cover costs.

"If you look over the last seven years at what has happened to Medicare premiums, they've actually doubled: They've gone up 100 percent. Physicians need to be fairly compensated, but it really shouldn't be on the backs of Medicare recipients who are already paying about 25 percent of their disposable income this year on health care."

Hall adds that although premiums have doubled, New York seniors receive basically the same level of service they were getting before they went up.

Congress has until June 16 to either find a solution or once again raise Medicare premiums. More information is available online at www.keepmedicarefair.org.

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