Elder Care: Medicare policy and presidential hopefuls
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Elder Care: Medicare policy and presidential hopefuls

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Medicare policy has been the backbone of health care for older Americans since this program was introduced over 50 years ago. It has continued to evolve, but not all changes result in better care.

The Democratic candidates for president in 2020 have presented various suggestions for improving Medicare policy and the management of prescription drug costs. Here’s where they stand (presented in alphabetical order):

Joe Biden

  • Maintain Medicare as a separate and distinct program
  • Protect funding for and availability of Home and Community Based Services
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies (currently not permitted by law)
  • Allow consumers to purchase medications from other countries if the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services certifies they are safe
  • End corporate tax breaks for pharmaceutical advertising
  • Improve the supply of quality, lower priced generic medications
  • Limit the prices of new drugs when they are introduced
  • Limit price increases on medications to the cost of inflation and create tax penalties for companies which don’t comply

Pete Buttigieg

  • Eliminate the waiting period (currently 2 years) for SSDI recipients to receive Medicare coverage
  • Provide Medicare coverage of technological services such as remote health monitoring
  • “Medicare For All Who Want It”- a public health plan to compete with private insurance
  • Change billing practices to ensure that all services provided by an in-network facility are
billed as in-network
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies
  • Create a cap for out-of-pocket expenses for older adults with traditional Medicare
  • Increase Medicare reimbursement rates for providers in underserved areas

Amy Klobuchar

  • Expand Medicare services for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies
  • Close the Medicare Part D “donut hole”
  • Provide Medicare coverage for dental, vision and hearing services
  • Allow individuals to purchase prescription medications from “safe” countries
  • Provide Medicare coverage for remote health monitoring

Bernie Sanders

  • “Medicare For All”
  • Expand Medicare coverage for the following services: dental, vision, hearing, home & community based long-term care, mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cap payments for prescription medications to $200 a year
  • Control prescription drug costs by instituting median drug prices based on drug costs in Canada, The United Kingdom, Japan, France and Germany
  • Allow individuals, pharmacists, and wholesalers to purchase prescription medications from “industrialized countries”
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies

Elizabeth Warren

  • “Medicare For All”
  • Expand Medicare coverage for the following services: dental, vision, hearing, mental health and long-term care
  • Improve the digital sharing of health information
  • Expand Medicare to everyone over 50 and improve coverage for everyone
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies. If this doesn’t result in lower costs, then permit drug patents to be overridden and make public funds available for the manufacture of medications

Medicare policy changes are only one piece of a candidate’s platform, which should be important to older adults when deciding who to support in the 2020 presidential election. Last week’s column summarized Social Security proposals, and next week the focus will be on general long-term care issues.

For information about each candidate’s ideas about how to pay for proposed Medicare policy changes and other programs, please visit their individual campaign websites.

Free Seminars: Medicaid is another government program that helps pay for the care of older adults. On Thursday, Feb. 13 at 3 p.m., Attorney Dave Nesbit will discuss “How A Married Couple Can Afford Nursing Home Care.” “Nursing Home Care for a Single Individual” will be covered on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. Call 717-697-3223 for more information.

Disclaimer: Keystone Elder Law P.C. does not endorse any particular candidate. This article is an attempt to summarize each candidate’s position regarding topics of interest to older adults. Information was obtained from each candidate’s campaign website. Additional candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are not listed due to space restrictions.

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