"Older Americans care deeply about access to and affordability of health care. They need and deserve affordable premiums, lower out of pocket costs, and coverage they can count on as they age."
AARP (June 27, 2017)
Older adult Sign on
Dear Tennessee Senators and Members of Congress:
We are writing to ask you to vote against health bills that will cut vital services for older adults.
Pending health proposals would cause serious harm for Tennessee’s seniors, especially those who are frail and who have limited means. Older adults are much more likely to have pre-existing medical conditions. Provisions that allow insurers to charge more to older people, or that limit coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, will leave many people between 50 – 65 unable to afford insurance at an age when their needs for health care are increasing. And proposals that leave them nominally insured, but without adequate coverage, are equally damaging.
Any legislation that caps the federal contribution to Medicaid will impose ever increasing cost burdens on the states. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate proposal would cut Medicaid by 35% over two decades. Initial reductions to TennCare would exceed $400 million per year, and will grow worse year by year. When state officials are forced to adjust to the reduced funding, they will have no choice but to cut the most expensive services and patients. Unfortunately, that means the most vulnerable patients will bear the brunt of the federal cuts, because their care is the costliest.
TennCare covers nearly two thirds of our frail elderly nursing home residents. Through the Medicare Savings Program, TennCare makes Medicare coverage affordable for the 20% of Tennessee seniors whose retirement income is below or close to poverty. TennCare is the principal funder of home and community based services that enable families to care for frail loved ones at home, rather than placing them in more institutions. All of these services are at risk, and the health and safety of the older people who rely on these services will be in danger.
Medicaid cuts will hurt seniors beyond those who must depend upon Medicaid for their coverage. As nursing home payments are reduced, the quality of care for all of a nursing facility’s residents will suffer, whether or not they are enrolled in TennCare. Rural communities have an older, sicker population that disproportionately relies on Medicaid for coverage. In rural communities, in particular, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, emergency medical services and clinics count on Medicaid revenues to stay open. Many of these providers will close if federal Medicaid funding is capped. Older residents of those communities will face diminished access to health care because of such closures, regardless of their source of health coverage.
Medicaid is the primary source of coverage for treatment of mental illness and addiction. Opioid addiction is an epidemic that increasingly affects older Tennesseans. Medicaid provides integrated medical and behavioral health services, which are both essential, as the majority of people with addictions have medical or mental conditions in addition to their addictions. Depriving them of Medicaid’s comprehensive care, even if Congress increases funding for addictions services, will therefore harm older people with addictions, and the communities and families to which they belong.
For the sake of the older Tennesseans whom you represent, we respectfully urge you to oppose any legislation that:
reduces health coverage or makes it more costly,
- discriminates against people based on age or their health condition, or that
- caps or cuts the traditional Medicaid program.
Our request is supported by the many nonpartisan professional groups and consumer advocacy organizations, and the majority of the American people, who strongly oppose the current health reform proposals. Please put the health and safety of your constituents before partisan political considerations. Lives depend upon it.