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– New legislation would protect patients from being dropped by doctors without cause

– Bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown

– More than 10,000 Americans recently urged Congress to support this legislation

October 28, 2014 ­­– The Center for Medicare Advocacy and the Medicare Rights Center held a joint telephone conference today with U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), highlighting the importance of the Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 4998 / S. 2552).

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), prohibits Medicare Advantage (MA) plans from dropping doctors in the middle of the year without cause, and ensures that beneficiaries are given adequate information to change plans or find new doctors when necessary.

“When UnitedHealth dropped an unprecedented number of providers right at the beginning of last year’s Medicare open enrollment period, the stories from seniors in my district were staggering,” Representative DeLauro said on the conference call. “People were not only worried about their physical health, but had to deal with the mental strain and stress of not knowing whether they were going to have their doctors. The Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights would help make sure seniors are not put through a bait-and-switch again,” she said.

“With Medicare open enrollment season in full swing, it’s crucial for members of Congress, beneficiaries and their families to know about the lack of basic consumer protections for Medicare Advantage enrollees,” said Judith Stein, Executive Director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “Advocates are joining together with legislators to support this smart, practical bill to ensure beneficiaries get what they sign up for.”

This teleconference comes after more than 10,000 Americans recently signed a petition sponsored by the Medicare Rights Center, the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the National Physicians Alliance, urging Congress to support this bill and enact legal protections to maintain doctor-patient relationships that are critical for continued health and wellbeing.

“With baby boomers continuing to age, a strong Medicare program is more important than ever before,” said Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center. “We need Congress to pass this bill to provide a basic measure of health security to our nation’s seniors, regardless of what Medicare program they choose.”

“This landmark legislative proposal was inspired by the thousands of patients who need a bill of rights to protect them against bait and switch abuses like United Health Care used last year when they dropped hundreds of doctors from their Medicare Advantage networks in Connecticut,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Their action – made without adequate notice or consumer protections – caused widespread confusion and anxiety, proving that elderly and frail patients need this legislation to protect them from abruptly and unfairly losing the doctors they know and trust.”

Senator Sherrod Brown, co-sponsor of the bill agrees, saying: “America’s seniors should not have to worry about losing access to their doctors and other health providers during the middle of the year or without sufficient notice.” Brown continued, “They deserve a strong Medicare program that protects their health and wellbeing by providing transparency and choice. That’s why we must pass the Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights Act – to provide seniors with common sense protections and the information they need to make informed decisions when choosing between plans.”

For more information, please contact Lauren Weybrew at / 646-214-0514 or Mitchell Clark at / 212-204-6286.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., established in 1986, is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides education, advocacy and legal assistance to help older people and people with disabilities obtain fair access to Medicare and necessary health care. The organization focuses on the needs of Medicare beneficiaries, people with chronic conditions, and those in need of long-term care. The organization is involved in writing, education, and advocacy activities of importance to Medicare beneficiaries nationwide.

The Medicare Rights Center (Medicare Rights) is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives. Medicare Rights has been helping people with Medicare understand their rights and benefits, navigate the Medicare system, and secure the quality health care they deserve since 1989.

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