The Association of Mature American Citizens, AMAC, Action has provided the Congress and the Administration a series of recommendations aimed at safeguarding seniors’ interests within the flurry of legislative proposals designed to cope with COVID-19’s aftermath.
“Senior Americans are among those most impacted by the virus, not just from a health susceptibility standpoint, but from an economic impact perspective. We believe our recommendations will be helpful to the Congress in addressing issues seniors face,” said Bob Carlstrom, President, AMAC Action, the advocacy affiliate of the 2.1 million-member Association of Mature American Citizens.
Among the recommendations:
Make the healthcare system more transparent.
Replace “surprise medical billing” with a fair and equitable arbitration process. “Americans should not receive a surprise bill when receiving medical treatment at an in-network hospital or surgery center,” said Carlstrom. AMAC supports enactment of legislation such as HR 3502, a strong bipartisan bill that comprehensively and properly addresses the surprise bill issue.
Order compelling price transparency between hospitals and insurers. The health care system is in dire need of transparency and the freedom for patients to experience the individualized care they want for themselves and their families.
Enact the “Lowering Prescription Drug Prices for America’s Seniors and Families Act of 2020” (S. 3384) which would require Medicare Part D plans to include real-time benefit information. Knowing what’s covered and how much they would have to pay out-of-pocket would empower seniors to take more control over their prescription costs.
Increase long-term health for individuals and society.
Increase Access to Primary Physician Care for Medicaid-Eligible Americans – Enact the Physician Pro Bono Care Act (H.R. 856) This bipartisan bill increases access for low-income patients to receive chronic healthcare at physician and clinical offices, rather than expensive hospital ERs. By offering physicians the opportunity to take a charitable tax deduction for seeing Medicaid eligible patients in their offices and clinics, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could see billions of dollars in savings. The cost of this self-executing tax deduction pales in comparison to the level of Medicaid and CHIP reimbursements for the same services, particularly the costs for chronic care in ER visits – a 95 percent savings.
Enact the Personalized Care Act of 2019 (S. 3112), which would expand HSAs to pay for direct primary care, health sharing ministries, insurance premiums and medications.
Enact the “Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act of 2019” (H.R. 5076) which would eliminate out-of-pocket vaccine costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
Improve Social Security during the coming recovery.
AMAC Action advocates several Social Security policies to help seniors:
Guarantee a minimum Social Security COLA for 2021 and beyond, based on MAGI to ensure the lower income beneficiaries with greater need are helped, not by a one-size-fits-all CPI formula.
Enact the bipartisan Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act (H.R. 3971) to eliminate the unjust double-tax on middle-income seniors’ Social Security benefits.
Protect Social Security benefits from federal governmental garnishment.
Protect small businesses and their employees.
“Seniors are one of the most at-risk populations for coronavirus, however they are also one of the largest groups of small business owners and will be responsible for putting Americans back to work in the coming recovery,” said Carlstrom.
More than one-quarter of all new business starts are by seniors ages 55 to 64. More than 1.5 million of the 6.5 million of the new businesses created each year are started by seniors. According to AMAC Action’s recommendations, Congress should act to:
Ensure seniors are not locked out of SBA programs providing quick and easy access to credit, debt forbearance and targeted debt forgiveness.
Protect at-risk seniors who are still working and who want to return to work by helping small businesses to afford personal protective equipment.
Delay tax filing until mid-October, which would allow small businesses a cash cushion during these fragile months.
AMAC Action secured some key policy wins in the CARES Act, Carlstrom noted, expressing hope that the organization could tack on more victories for mature Americans in the coming weeks and months. “Members on both sides of the aisle are very good at counting votes,” he said. “In the 2020 election, about 40 percent of eligible voters will be 56 and older. Seniors are more likely to turn out to vote will likely comprise a disproportionally larger share of those who show up at the polls.”
The rapidly growing 2.1-million-member AMAC Action is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization created to assist Association of Mature American Citizens members with grassroots participation on Capitol Hill and at the local level through its advocacy programs.