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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
May 2018
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Golden Pages
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Opinion
by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
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Protecting Seniors’ Health Care 

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

Some positive changes are coming for Nevada seniors enrolled in Medicare. Nevada enrollees will receive their new Medicare cards in the mail in June. These updated cards will help protect seniors against scams by replacing the enrollee’s Social Security number with a personalized and encrypted 11 digit number. This update will help protect thousands of seniors in Nevada from dangerous scammers, but more must be done to protect the program from dangers in Washington.

In my conversations with patients and providers in the Truckee Meadows, and around the state, I consistently hear about the importance of protecting both Medicare and Medicaid. I’ve seen firsthand the lifeline these programs provide to Nevada’s seniors like my grandmother, who worked as a sales clerk in Las Vegas to provide for her family and had Medicare and Social Security to rely on in her retirement. Fighting for these critical programs is among my highest priorities as a United States Senator.

Democrats in Congress have consistently shown their commitment to shoring up and strengthening Medicare and Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, yet it has provided critical protections to thousands of Nevada seniors. Since its enactment, the law has strengthened Medicare by lowering costs and increasing services for seniors in Nevada. The ACA’s closing of the prescription drug doughnut hole has saved seniors $33 million in prescription drug costs in 2015 alone. That’s about $967 per beneficiary. And, the ACA has eliminated out-of-pocket costs for thousands of Medicare beneficiaries in Nevada for preventative cancer screenings, bone mass measurements, annual physicals, and smoking cessation.

In addition, Nevada’s Medicaid expansion has helped more than 240,000 Nevadans gain health care coverage. Many of these Nevadans are seniors who may not yet qualify for Medicare coverage, and thousands of seniors who rely on Medicaid to fill the gaps in Medicare coverage, or to fund their long-term care needs.

Across the country, one in five Medicare beneficiaries also receives Medicaid coverage. These crucial services meet the needs of those with chronic and complex health needs, as well as provide stipends for home health care, medical equipment and physical therapy for those seniors who need a little extra assistance in maintaining their quality of life and don’t want to or can’t ask their hardworking family for help.

Nevada is making great strides in the health care field. On a recent tour of Renown Regional Medical Center I saw the hospital’s Telehealth Program in action, which includes telecardiology and telestroke programs. These programs assist providers and patients with delivering medical care to patients online when they can’t make it to the office, helping diagnose and treat heart attacks and strokes faster and more efficiently. Innovative programs like these have thrived under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, where local hospitals have received millions of dollars to provide health care to patients that would have previously struggled to receive diagnosis and treatment without a trip to the Emergency Room. Thus, reducing the cost of receiving emergency care, which is often an expensive burden on both providers and patients.

We must keep this momentum going. While imperfect, the ACA is making an impact. Sadly, bipartisan efforts in Congress to fix and strengthen the law are being met with fierce opposition. Rather than work with me to work to reduce premiums, shore up cost sharing payments to providers, strengthen rural health care delivery, and further protect Medicare and Medicaid, this Administration and some of my Republican colleagues tried to repeal the ACA and are proposing extensive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to pay for their $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations and the top one percent. Their proposals have also included legislation to roll back the ACA’s advances and ACA specific funding for Medicaid expansion. That would mean higher insurance premiums, potentially higher prescription drug costs, copays for preventative screenings, and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that seniors, kids, and hard working families rely on.

This May, as we celebrate Older Americans Month, and encourage seniors to take an active role in their health, I want my constituents to know one thing: I will fight any attempt to target Medicare and Medicaid. I know my responsibility in Congress. And that is to ensure that seniors in Nevada have access to quality, affordable health care. Congress cannot turn their backs on older Americans. I will continue to fight in the Senate for bipartisan solutions that protect the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid and keep all Nevadans – seniors, kids, and hardworking families – healthy.