On March 20, 2015, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, held its second 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 health care, long-term services and supports, and quality of life for older people and people with disabilities. The event was held in Washington, DC at the Kaiser Family Foundation in its Barbara Jordan Conference Center. Below are some highlights from the Summit and some of the next-steps that it generated.
- The importance of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare: Since 1965, Medicare has assured health care and increased economic security for hundreds of millions of older people, people with disabilities, and their families. The Summit highlighted the tremendous successes in the Medicare program, as well as ways in which the program could be expanded and improved. The Summit also aired an excerpt from an upcoming documentary, “The Power to Heal” that described the role Medicare played in desegregation. Medicare opened the door to hospital privileges for African-American physicians, and created access to basic hospital and other health care services for African-American citizens nationwide.
- Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture Award: Judith Feder, Professor of Public Policy at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, received the Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture Award. Ms. Feder, accepting the award from Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director Judith Stein, gave an inspirational speech regarding the integral role that social insurance plays in our society. She spoke about the role of advocacy in fighting to expand health care benefits to more individuals. “Without our voices to make government work, not only will the ACA fail to thrive, but Medicare and Medicaid will more easily become targets for opponents of government health insurance – opponents who want to turn these public programs into vouchers for private health insurance [for Medicare], and state flexibility funds [for Medicaid].” Feder stressed that advocates must hold government officials accountable in order make Medicare and Medicaid stronger programs. “That’s where our voices count so much . . . holding federal officials and elected officials accountable for doing the job that the law enables them to do. And that’s what the Center for Medicare Advocacy does every day in every way.”
- The importance of telling the stories of our clients’ lives: Ann Marie Maffuid and Eileen Mastrio spoke beautifully about their late mother, Eileen Prendergast. They spoke of her struggles with ALS, her determination to stay in her home close to her family, and her love for her grandchildren. The Center for Medicare Advocacy had the honor of working with Ms. Prendergast and her family in restoring her home health care after her Medicare Advantage plan curtailed coverage. Ms. Prendergast’s Medicare Advantage Plan and home health agency determined that because she was “stable in her disease state” and would not improve, she did not need skilled care, which is a prerequisite to Medicare home health coverage. The Center successfully litigated Ms. Prendergast’s case, resulting in her home health care being reinstated.
The Summit also included a moving tribute to Rosalie Berkowitz, the subject of a StoryCorps portrait presented at the Center’s 2014 Summit, who passed away recently. Beginning in 1987, the Center helped Ms. Berkowitz remain in her home despite the chronic and progressive nature of her Multiple Sclerosis.
- The importance of widening the circle of advocacy: We heard from advocates regarding ways that advocacy for Medicare beneficiaries impacts segments of our population including people with ALS, LGBT communities, and people with disabilities. We learned about the importance of coalitions in successful advocacy. For example, Kevin Prindiville from Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center) discussed work in collaboration with LGBT groups to improve Medicare coverage for all beneficiaries.
- The role of champions: Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) expressed his ongoing commitment to ending hospital "Observation Status," a trap that bars beneficiaries from receiving Medicare payment for medically necessary post-hospital care in a skilled nursing facility. Accordingly, Rep. Courtney announced at the Summit that he was reintroducing legislation that would count all time spent in the hospital toward the three-day requirement to qualify for Medicare coverage for nursing home care. As the Congressman stated, “[The Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2015] is a bipartisan effort that has been gaining momentum as more seniors and their families learn about this problem firsthand.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) spoke about the heartbreaking stories of seniors being denied critical supports while their families struggle to provide them with care. “The Center for Medicare Advocacy is indispensable to making this program work for our nation’s seniors – you help thousands of people to be able to navigate the system, you represent those who struggle to obtain coverage and you fight for Medicare every single day in court, in Congress, and with the Executive branch. So, I’m grateful to the entire organization for the service that you provide to this country.”
DeLauro emphasized the essential role that advocates play in guiding seniors and their families through the complex Medicare system, particularly during difficult times of illness. “What [the Center for Medicare Advocacy] does in terms of helping to turn people’s lives around is extraordinary.”
- Continuing to serve as the voice for the vulnerable: The Summit called on advocates to honor the 50th anniversary of Medicare by continuing to serve as the voice for vulnerable individuals. We must honor and celebrate the successes achieved through coalitions and advocacy, while maintaining a steadfast focus on how we can continue to improve the program, keep traditional Medicare Strong, and increase access to essential care for beneficiaries.
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 3rd Annual Summit on April 1, 2016.
Who Were, Are and Will Be Medicare Beneficiaries?
Marilyn Moon, Director, Center on Aging, American Institutes for Research
Patricia Neuman, Senior Vice President, Kaiser Family Foundation
Judith Stein, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Keeping Medicare's Promise
Congressman Joe Courtney (CT, 2nd District)
What is the Promise, Reality, and Future of Medicare?
Jonathan Blum, Former Principal Deputy Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Sean Cavanaugh, Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Bruce Vladeck, Former Administrator, Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA, now CMS)
Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture and Award
Judith Feder, Professor of Public Policy, McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT, 3rd District)
Unfair Today, Illegal Tomorrow: Litigation & Legislation
Stu Cohen, Senior Vice President of Legal Advocacy, AARP Foundation
Gill Deford, Litigation Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Leslie Fried, Senior Director, Center for Benefits Access, National Council on Aging
Margaret Murphy, Associate Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director, Justice In Aging
Widening the Circle
Henry Claypool, Advocate for People with Disabilities
Vicki Gottlich, Director, Center for Policy and Evaluation, Administration for Community Living
Kathleen Holt, National Board Trustee, ALS Association; Associate Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Getting our Voices Heard
Ben Belton, Senior Advisor to the Acting Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Clare Durrett, Associate Executive Director, The Gleason Initiative Foundation
Stephen McConnell, Country Director for U.S. Programs, The Atlantic Philanthropies
Julie Rovner, Reporter, Kaiser Health News