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On April 1, 2016, the Center for Medicare Advocacy held its third annual National Voices of Medicare Summit and Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture. The event brought together leading experts and advocates to discuss best practices, challenges, and successes in efforts to improve and expand fair access to health care for older people and people with disabilities. The event was held in Washington, DC at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Barbara Jordan Conference Center. Below are some highlights from the Summit and some of the next-steps that it generated.

  • CMS Updates: Sean Cavanaugh, CMS Deputy Administrator & Medicare Director, provided an update on Medicare and engaged in an extensive question and answer session with attendees. Among many hot topics, he discussed observation status, fraud measures, transitions to Medicare, and the Part B demonstration recently introduced.
  • Beneficiary-Based Medicare Reform: A panel of national Medicare policy experts with decades of combined experience in areas of health care financing, public policy, and Medicare reform explored various factors that must be weighed in developing a beneficiary-focused, sustainable redesign. The Center’s executive director, Judith Stein, along with Center Board Member Judy Feder from Georgetown University, Marilyn Moon from American Institutes for Research, and Kaiser Family Foundation’s Patricia Neuman outlined core considerations central to beneficiary-focused Medicare redesign: Adequate and available coverage, Affordability for beneficiaries, Simplicity of use, Sustainability, Fairness, and Accountability and oversight.
  • Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture Award: Tamera Luzzatto, Vice President of Government Relations at The Pew Charitable Trusts, presented the Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture. The Center for Medicare Advocacy was honored to recognize Ms. Luzzatto’s extraordinary public service in advancing access to affordable health and long term care in her work with Senator Rockefeller, the Pepper Commission, and former Senator Hillary Clinton. Senator Rockefeller was present to introduce Ms. Luzzatto and provide comments regarding health care, advocacy, and the need for good journalism. Ms. Luzzatto spoke to attendees about the need for coalition building and targeting incremental legislative changes as part of broader progress on crucial issues like Medicare.
  • Challenges in Advocacy: Max Richtman, National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, and Larry Coffee, Dental Lifeline, discussed two key gaps in coverage in Medicare. Mr. Richtman shared that seniors who turn 65 are shocked to learn that Medicare does not cover dental, vision and hearing. He called for the inclusion of audiology coverage in Medicare in order to improve safety, quality of life, and overall health outcomes. The Center is working with the National Committee to raise awareness of the importance of adding audiology services to Medicare.

Dr. Coffee presented on the inextricable link between oral health and overall health of individuals in underscoring the need for oral health care coverage in Medicare. The Center is currently working to ensure Medicare coverage for medically necessary oral health care, while also advocating to expand Medicare to include a preventive dental and oral health benefit.

Ben Belton, Social Security Administration, emphasized the need for increased awareness for SSI, as many do not realize they are eligible. Peter Thomas, Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, spoke about the power of mobilizing a grassroots effort to fight for needed coverage.  He highlighted the impact such activity had on curtailing a terrible proposed policy that would have limited access to prostheses.

The Summit also included moving comments from Gabe Quintanilla, an attorney and advocate for his mother, who described the challenges in gaining coverage for his mother’s care after doctors claimed that her condition had “plateaued.” Unfortunately, despite the Jimmo v. Sebelius settlement that sought to undo the “improvement standard” myth relating to Medicare coverage of skilled therapy and services, many providers and contractors still employ this illegal standard. The Center recently filed a Motion for Resolution of Non-Compliance to ensure the Settlement is fully implemented.

The Center also updated the attendees on the proposed settlement reached in the case of Lessler/Exley v. Burwell, which addresses the tremendous backlog of hearings and delays that Medicare beneficiaries have been experiencing at the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) level of review.

  • Challenges in Caregiving: Attendees heard from leading advocates and national leaders representing caregivers and those needing care on best practices from multiple perspectives within the health care system. Leslie Frane, Service Employees International Union, gave an impassioned presentation on the movement to pay caregivers a decent wage. Sarita Gupta of Caring Across Generations highlighted the challenges of family caregivers and the important nexus between those who need care and those who provide care. Sarah Lenz Lock gave a sobering presentation on the crisis of caring for individuals with cognitive impairments.
  • Wait, Wait Don’t Tell MeMedicare Edition: In a fun and fast-moving format, Center attorneys and colleagues covered a wide array of Medicare and health care issues to close the day.
  • Center for Medicare Advocacy’s 30th Anniversary: The Summit also marked the beginning of the 30th anniversary year for the Center for Medicare Advocacy. Special guest Steve Gleason, former New Orleans Saint and founder of Team Gleason, who lives with ALS, kicked off the 30th anniversary year with a video message for Summit attendees. Gleason built on an earlier presentation from Team Gleason’s Clare Durrett and shared the powerful story of how, together with the Center and others, Team Gleason was successful in advocating for passage of the Gleason Act in Congress. He highlighted the importance of determination, persistence and collaboration among advocacy groups, while presenting his message through the use of his Speech Generating Device (SGD).

The Center for Medicare Advocacy thanks all of our attendees, sponsors, panelists and presenters.  Your contributions make the National Voices of Medicare Summit the remarkable event that it is.  We look forward to further exploration at our 4th Annual Summit on March 30, 2017.

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