June 26, 2003
The Honorable Tommy Thompson
Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue SW
Washington DC 20201
I really appreciated having the opportunity to present you as our honored guest Tuesday night at the 60 Plus Association’s 10th Anniversary dinner where we had an overflow crowd of 252 attendees; our goal was for 200. Afterwards, many people commented to me on the strong passion and compassion that you exemplify in all health care issues impacting our country and the international community. Your comments were well received by the attendees, and Jim Martin, Beau Boulter and I are sincerely appreciative of having you lead one of the most important departments within the Administration.
As Congress this week considers the “Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003,” we want to express our appreciation for your efforts to secure a revitalized Medicare program that includes coverage for prescription drugs. I know your dedication for this issue and all of the time that has been consumed to seek its successful passage.
Having said that, I wanted to bring to your attention a deep concern of the 60 Plus Association regarding the Medicare home health benefit. The 60 Plus Association is pleased with the Senate Finance Committee’s proposal that does not include any further reductions to Medicare home health services. But it is our understanding that the House Ways and Means proposal includes two devastating reductions impacting home health patients and providers. The reductions include a home health co-payment and a reduction of the market basket for a three-year period. It is important to note that the Medicare home health benefit since 1997 has undergone
approximately $100 billion in reductions over a ten-year period. Simply put, we do not believe that any further reductions should be implemented to this benefit that continues to experience declines in expenditures and access to care for Medicare-eligible home health patients.
As you are aware, the typical Medicare home health beneficiary is predominately an older female who is more likely to live alone and is sicker than the average Medicare beneficiary. They are poorer than the average Medicare beneficiary with less than 15,000 in annual income. Even with exemptions for the poverty level, it is important to note that the elderly Medicare home health patients pay about 30 percent of their home care expenses out-of-pocket.
We are hopeful that you will join us in eliminating the Medicare home health reductions from the final “Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernizations Act of 2003.” Our members want to be sure that Medicare home health services remain a viable health care choice.
Once again, thank you for presenting to our Association, Tuesday evening.
Roger H. Zion
Wisconsin Badger Class of 1943
Cc. Martha Kendrick, Patton Boggs