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Right of Older Americans to Add Own Money to Get Unrationed Insurance in Medicare at Stake: House Votes to Ration Medicare, Critical Votes Will Come in Conference.

On August 1, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 225204 to adopt legislation that would effectively end the right of older Americans to spend their own money to save their own lives through the private fee-for-service alternative the National Right to Life Committee's efforts had added to Medicare in 1997 and expanded in 2003.

National Right to Life had sent a letter to all member of the U.S., House of Representatives opposing the measure. 220 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted for the bill while 194 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against the bill as NRLC had urged.

The bill, known as the "CHAMP Act" ("Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act"), now goes to a conference committee with a Senate bill that contains no such provisions. Both bills relate to the state expansion of the "State Children's Health Insurance ProgramSCHIP."

Under the private fee-for-service plans option in Medicare, senior citizens can choose health insurance whose value is not limited by what the government may pay toward it. These plans can currently set premiums and reimbursement rates for providers without upward limits set by government regulation. This means that such plans will not be forced to ration treatment, as long as senior citizens are willing and able to pay more to choose them. Over 1 million older Americans are now enrolled in private fee-for-service plans, about 2% of all Medicare beneficiaries. (For more details, including an analysis explaining how the House-passed CHAMP Act would effectively end the private fee-for-service option, see www.nrlc.org/Medicare/index.html.)

However, in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), 18 Democratic House Members,led by Representatives Collin Peterson (D-Mn.) and Lincoln Davis (D-Al.), called for the offending provisions to be dropped by the conference committee and warned that they might not vote for the conference report if this were not done.Since the vote margin on the House floor in favor of the bill as it went to conference was only 11 votes, and 12 of those voting in favor signed the letter, this warning could prove decisive. Members signing, in alphabetical order, were: Rep. Dan Boren(Ok.), Rep. Jerry Costello (Il.), Rep. Lincoln Davis (Tn.), Rep. Joe Donnelly (In.), Rep. Brad Ellsworth (In.), Rep. Tim Holden (Pa.), Rep. Dale Kildee(Mi.), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (Il.) Rep. Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC), Rep. Charlie Melancon (La.),Rep. James Oberstar (Mn.), Rep. Collin C Peterson (Mn.), Rep. Nick Rahall (WV), Rep. Heath Shuler (NC), Rep. Bart Stupak (Mi.), Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.),Rep. Charlie Wilson (Ohio),

"NRLC is very grateful to all those who voted against this measure that would eliminate the option for seniors to obtain unrationed health care through the private fee-for-service option in Medicare Advantage," said NRLC Executive Director David N. O'Steen, Ph.D. "We appreciate the courage of those Democratic members of the House who, despite facing pressure from the Democratic leadership, acted to defend the rights of older Americans to avoid the involuntary euthanasia that is rationing."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mt.), who is likely to lead the Senate side of the conference committee, has suggested that the conference committee might drop all the provisions relating to Medicare, but that the Medicare issues would then be bundled into a separate bill to be taken up promptly. If this occurs, it will be equally important to see that the private fee-for-service option is not destroyed or decimated in such a bill.

"Grassroots Americans must insist that the private fee-for-service option be preserved in Medicare in a form that effectively allows senior citizens, if they wish, to add their own funds on top of the government con-tribution in order to get insurance that avoids rationing," said Burke J. Balch, director of NRLC's Powell Center for Medical Ethics. "Otherwise, we are all likely to face the slow strangulation of involuntary death for want of necessary medical treatment, denied the right even to use our own money to save our own lives."
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Publication:National Right to Life News
Date:Aug 1, 2007
Words:664
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