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GUEST COLUMN

Indiana congressional delegation should protect Medicare Part D

Monday, November 5, 2012 - 1:25 pm

Volunteers of America is a national leader in providing care and housing for seniors.

In the United States today, we are the largest nonprofit provider of affordable senior housing, as well as among the largest nonprofit providers of skilled nursing care and assisted living for seniors. We serve approximately 30,000 seniors each day. It is on behalf of these many seniors that we serve, that I take time today to draw your attention to a potential crisis facing senior citizens across our country.

As the 2012 election quickly approaches, it is important for voters to be educated on the issues that impact them. For a growing number of Hoosiers, among those issues are the health care options available to them through Medicare. As more and more baby boomers reach retirement age, a greater focus is being taken by Congress on all parts of the Medicare program. For disabled Hoosiers and seniors, Medicare is the health care lifeline, so our next Congress, and especially Indiana's next U.S. senator, needs to be very careful when evaluating any actions they want to take.

Our congressional delegation will be facing serious challenges immediately upon taking office to avoid a fiscal cliff that is looming. The combination of the growing federal deficit, expiration of billions of dollars in tax cuts and sequestration will create the perfect storm that must be dealt with immediately. Programs like Medicare have been a political football throughout this election season, mentioned at every corner of the presidential debate as a place where cuts and reforms can be found.

Cuts to Medicare, however, have the potential for harming one of the most successful programs within the federal government – Medicare Part D, a program that is consistently under budget and has provided seniors with life-extending benefits for years.

Medicare Part D, also known as the Prescription Drug Plan, has provided affordable health care and comprehensive prescription drug coverage to our most vulnerable neighbors, including 90 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries. Thanks to the health care barriers that have been eliminated as a result of Part D since its start in 2003, I have witnessed Hoosiers staying on doctor-prescribed health regimens with reduced hospital visits and avoidance of costly health issues creating Medicare savings.

Prescription affordability is Medicare recipients' best medicine for future health and reduced illness. A Journal of the American Medical Association study found that Part D saves Medicare recipients $1,200 per year in health care costs for beneficiaries who previously lacked comprehensive prescription drug coverage. Imagine how financially and physically crippling it would be for your family members who no longer could afford the medication they need and deserve.

I encourage the Indiana congressional delegation to protect the Part D program in support of Indiana Medicare beneficiaries who rely on Part D for vital medications. You can help to protect our Prescription Drug Plan by contacting your senator or representative. We must protect Hoosiers' quality of life and continue to invest in the future health of our neighbors.

Volunteers of America of Indiana remains committed to serving our community through programs such as senior housing, transitional housing and case management services for homeless veterans, supportive services for those re-entering our communities after criminal justice involvement, and those dealing with chronic addiction and mental illness. Thank you for your attention to this pressing matter.

Timothy R. Campbell is president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Indiana, Inc.