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 Article of Interest - Medicare

Bush's New Freedom Equals a "little freedom" for Americans with Disabilities on Medicare


Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe today called President Bush's recently-issued "homebound" Medicare policy changes misguided, inadequate and simply rhetorical. 


"President Bush used the backdrop of the 12th anniversary of the most important civil rights legislation for people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to again put out false promises to people with disabilities," McAuliffe said.


Last Friday, President Bush said that Medicare home health beneficiaries should be given a "little freedom" in order to "occasionally take part in their communities without fear of losing their benefits." Currently the home health homebound rule in Medicare is being used to incarcerate thousands of people with permanent disabilities and serious health conditions in their home each day in order to receive the home health care they need to sustain their lives.


When Medicare was enacted thirty years ago, the homebound rule made perfect sense for determining who needed the benefit. But in today's technologically advanced world, the homebound rule is unfair, intrusive and overly proscriptive for people with the most significant disabilities, similar to the President's recently released instructions. In fact, the new program instruction to home health agencies and Medicare carriers is even more restrictive than the already overly restrictive homebound definition. It cites specific examples of how beneficiaries can participate in their communities, but these examples do more harm than good. A beneficiary should be able to leave home to attend college, go to the movies, or go out to dinner, yet none of these activities are on the new Medicare list. These exclusions obviously imply that they are not allowed.  For people like David Jayne, the founder of the National Coalition to Amend the Medicare Homebound Restriction, a man with advanced ALS, or people who have late stage MS and severe spinal cord injuries who must receive home health services for the rest of their lives, the rule is damaging to their quality of life. Nationally, roughly forty-six thousand beneficiaries are estimated to need skilled home health care for a year or more due to their disability or chronic illness.


"President Bush's so-called New Program Instruction is no different than his 'New Freedom Initiative.' It is full of rhetorical promises and false claims," McAuliffe continued. "The Bush administration's clarification of Medicare policy is even more restrictive than the existing restrictive homebound definition." 


"Once again, I call on the President---and Congress---to deliver 'Real Freedoms' to people with disabilities, not Bush's version of 'New Freedoms.'"

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