September 28, 2007

CARDIN INTRODUCES BILL TO ELIMINATE COST-SHARING REQUIREMENTS FOR MEDICARE PREVENTIVE BENEFITS & EXTEND TIME LIMIT FOR INITIAL PHYSICAL EXAMS

Bill would also give HHS authority to expand covered services

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-MD, has introduced legislation that would waive cost-sharing for preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries, give the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to add additional preventive benefits to Medicare, and extend the eligibility period for "Welcome to Medicare" physical exams.

 

"Preventive services are a critical element of quality health care, but many seniors aren't getting them because of the required deductibles and copays ," said Senator Cardin.  

 

The Senator pointed to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that compared out-of-pocket costs among age groups.   The study found that seniors in one-person households spend 12.5% of their income on health care, versus 2.2% of those under 65.  

 

"Most Medicare beneficiaries are on a fixed income and additional health care costs such as preventive screening co-payments are difficult for them to afford.   My goal is to ensure that as many Medicare beneficiaries as possible are able to take advantage of these important benefits."

 

The Medicare Preventive Services Coverage Act , S. 2115, also would extend the deadline from six months to one year for the Welcome to Medicare physical exam, which provides a baseline exam for everyone entering the Medicare system.  Many seniors are unable to schedule a complete physical exam within the six-month deadline.  As of July 2006, only about 2% of new beneficiaries had received the exam.  

 

The bill also gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to add new preventive services based on the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.   "The work of the task force is highly regarded by the medical community and this authority will speed up the process of identifying and providing important preventive services to Medicare beneficiaries," said Senator Cardin.

 

Senator Cardin has been a long-time advocate for expanding Medicare to include preventive benefits.   In 1997, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, his proposal to expand Medicare to include preventive benefits was enacted into law.

 

In 2001, Congress went on to expand Medicare's preventive benefits to include then-Congressman Cardin's proposal for cervical cancer screening (pap tests and pelvic exams), breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening, diabetes testing supplies and management.

 

"When Medicare was created in 1965, preventive benefits were not universally recognized as essential services.    We now know that screening can save lives and save health-care dollars.   By eliminating burdensome cost-sharing, we can help seniors receive these services and reduce overall health care costs for Medicare."

 

This bill is supported by the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the Colorectal Cancer Coalition (C3), and the Society of Vascular Surgeons.