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AARP protests Medicare premium increases

AARP protests Medicare premium increases, delivering over 20,000 petitions to Senators Hutchison and Cornyn

Medicare premiums have doubled since 2000

AUSTIN, TX – Waving signs and carrying boxes, AARP members and volunteers today delivered more than 20,000 petitions to the offices of Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn in Dallas and Austin, saying it’s time for Congress to halt out-of-control Medicare premium increases.

Congress must act by June 30 to preserve beneficiary access to doctors without penalizing them for a flawed physician payment system.  People on Medicare have always been willing to pay their fair share for their health care coverage and they understand that doctors who treat Medicare patients must be paid fairly. But forcing older Americans to pay even higher premiums because of a flawed physician payment system is just not fair. Temporary physician payment fixes by Congress have contributed to a doubling of Medicare premiums since 2000.

"At a time when all Texans are feeling the crunch of higher prices for basic necessities like food and gas, the last thing Medicare beneficiaries who live on fixed incomes need is another increase in their monthly Medicare premium," said AARP Texas State President Gus Cárdenas in Austin.  "We’re asking Senators Hutchison and Cornyn today to help us fix the physician payment problem, not just vote to raise our premiums."

In an AARP poll released earlier this month, 66 percent of adults ages 50 and over said they would vote against a congressional candidate in the general election if that candidate supported increasing monthly premiums.  AARP has 39 million members nationally, including 2.3 million in Texas.

More than 20,000 petitions from Texans were hand delivered both to Sen. Hutchison’s office in Dallas and Sen. Cornyn’s office in Austin, while volunteers held signs that said "Keep Medicare Fair" and "Texans Deserve Better."

Mary Scott, a member of AARP, said in Dallas, "Let’s stop using a ’Band-Aid’ approach and instead find real solutions to our skyrocketing health care costs. We know that health care costs are going up for everyone, but older Americans in particular are taking it on the chin.  Forcing people on Medicare to pay because Congress hasn’t found a long- term fix is simply unfair."

AARP’s poll found that eight in ten survey respondents opposed raising premiums even higher instead of looking at other recommended ways to lower health care costs.  It also found that a vast majority of 50-plus Americans are concerned about their current and future out-of-pocket health care costs (80 percent and 88 percent, respectively).  Concern over Medicare premiums even extends to those not yet in the program.  Among those ages 50 to 64, 86 percent are concerned about what their premiums will be when they become eligible for Medicare.

Medicare covers only about half of a beneficiary’s health care bills, while about one-quarter of the costs are out-of-pocket. This doesn’t include long-term care costs, whether at home or in a nursing home, where the average cost is around $75,000 annually.  Just one hospital visit can cost as much as $1,000 out-of-pocket, making it particularly tough on seniors on fixed income.

AARP has been working to keep premiums fair and improve Medicare’s low-income programs, including the Part D Low-Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs.  The grassroots effort has already generated more than 325,000 signed petitions – including over 20,000 from Texans -- as well as 26,000 calls and 150,000 e-mails to Senate offices.  Television, print and online ads are running in major markets around the country.

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