On June 4, Medicare Rights Center President Fred Riccardi testified at a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health titled “Investing in America’s Health Care.”
The hearing examined an array of public health initiatives set to expire in September. Riccardi spoke to several of the Medicare-related programs, urging Congress to address these expirations in a health care “extenders” legislative package later this year.
One such program encompasses the low-income outreach and enrollment efforts originally authorized under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008. MIPPA provides targeted funding for community-based organizations, including State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), to help people with Medicare who have limited incomes apply for assistance programs that can make their health care and prescription drug coverage more affordable.
The relevant bill under consideration at the hearing (H.R. 3039) would fund these activities for five years at $50 million each year, up from $37.5 million currently. Riccardi expressed Medicare Rights’ appreciation for this funding increase and urged the committee to also pursue a permanent authorization. Adequate, stable funding would best position the program to meet the needs of current and future Medicare beneficiaries.
With an ever-growing number of people facing Medicare enrollment decisions—and difficulties navigating these transitions—Riccardi presented committee members with additional opportunities to improve access to Medicare coverage, asking them to prioritize the bipartisan, bicameral BENES Act (S. 1280/H.R. 2477) for passage this year. By simplifying and modernizing Part B enrollment, in part, the BENES Act would help prevent costly enrollment errors and gaps in coverage, further improving beneficiaries’ health and economic security.
He also offered Medicare Rights’ support for the Limited Income Newly Eligible Transition (LI NET) program and legislation to permanently authorize it (H.R. 3029). LI NET provides low-income Medicare beneficiaries with temporary prescription drug coverage, allowing them to afford their medications while transitioning to a Part D plan. Making LI NET permanent would provide operational certainty and help ensure the availability of its much-needed assistance.
Riccardi then spoke to the importance of high-quality care and the role of the National Quality Forum (NQF) in promoting assurance measures across programs, systems, and settings. As an active NQF member, Medicare Rights is pleased to support legislation that would reauthorize and fund NQF for five years at $30 million annually (H.R. 3031). This critical investment would allow NQF to build on advancements already underway to create a high-quality, high-impact, and cost-efficient health care system.
Medicare Rights thanks the committee for the opportunity to participate in the hearing. We look forward to working together to advance the bipartisan policy solutions that will improve access and affordability for all people with Medicare—including the BENES Act, efforts to permanently authorize and adequately fund MIPPA and LI NET, and continued funding for NQF.
Watch the testimony here: