[Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121]
[White House: 202-456-1414]
Urge them to restore to Medicare the funds which were cut in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act [BBA]. These cuts have resulted in reductions in services and care to Medicare beneficiaries and destabilizing of our nation's hospital system, including Catholic hospitals and health plans.
As part of a combined campaign on this issue, The Catholic Health Association has embarked on an effort to reverse the consequences of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. They have been working for nearly a year, along with other national health care organizations, in pursuit of BBA changes. Their members will be meeting with leaders in the Administration and Congress to convey this same message. They are asking for the assistance of the entire Catholic community.
Medicare provides health care not just to the elderly but also the disabled and low-income individuals. In 1999, 39 million Americans relied on the Medicare program for their health care, with 12% under age 65 and 12% 85 or older. Nearly half of all beneficiaries have incomes below 200% of the poverty level [$15,480 for individuals]. Some of the nation's most vulnerable - the oldest-old, the under 65 disabled, racial and ethnic minorities, and women - are disproportionately represented among the low-income segment of the Medicare population.
Since its creation in 1965, Medicare spending has grown at the same rate as private insurance. More recently, Medicare spending has slowed, largely the result of changes enacted as part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act [BBA]. The BBA reduced payments to providers, including Catholic hospitals and health plans. As a consequence of these reductions, the provider community's ability to provide care has been dramatically limited, resulting in harm to Medicare beneficiaries and others who rely on health systems.
In July, Cardinal Mahony sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee expressing the bishops' concern about the continuing ability of the Medicare program to fulfill its promise to those who rely on its services. The bishops recognized the important role that Medicare plays in assuring genuine health coverage to the elderly and disabled. He noted that the bishops have long demonstrated their commitment to affordable and accessible health coverage for all people both through their public policy work and the numerous Catholic-sponsored hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.
He urged the Committee to safeguard the continued existence of safety net institutions, such as rural and inner city hospitals, including Catholic-sponsored institutions; specialty hospitals, e.g. children's hospitals; and teaching and research institutions. Stressing that it is vital to ensure that health care is offered in ways that recognize and protect human dignity, the Cardinal declared that the Medicare program has done this. In order to continue to fulfill this mission, the nation must commit sufficient resources to ensuring its financial solvency as well as reflecting the advances in medical care. In this time of projected budget surpluses, he urged Congress to dedicate a portion of projected surpluses to strengthening the financial stability of the Medicare program.
For further information, contact: Patricia A. King, firstname.lastname@example.org or Cynthia Phillips, email@example.com.