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Washington Rages over Children's Health Insurance

Seniors at the Alliance for Retired Americans' Legislative Conference lobbied their congresspersons September 5th on Capitol Hill. They had a large number of issues important to working people and retirees, but the most urgent problem had to do with CHIP -- Children's Health Insurance Program. In spite of a presidential veto threat, both the Senate and the House had passed versions to broaden coverage of America's millions of uninsured children. The difference between the two versions, though, was profound.

The House bill, known as "CHAMPS," attempts to rectify some of the worst features of the 2003 Prescription Drug program that was rammed through during one of the Republicans' infamous "midnight sessions." Unbeknowest to almost everybody, they managed to privatize a significant part of America's prized Medicare program. Under "Medicare Advantage" provisions of the 2003 bill, insurance companies can use high-pressure salesmen to sell coverage to older Americans and disabled people. They can "cherry pick" the beneficiaries least likely to need medical care, they can use all of the tricks that insurance companies use to keep from paying, and the government foots the bill! In fact, "Medicare Advantage" beneficiaries receive higher government reiumbursemets than ordinary Americans on Medicare!

The bill that passed in the Democrat-dominated House would make it less profitable and more difficult for insurance companies to undermine Medicare. If it became law, estimates of the future funding for Medicare would increase by three years! Over in the Senate, where the Democrats barely have a majority and it takes a 60% vote to pass almost anything, Medicare Advantage would not be restricted at all.

The two versions of the bill being worked out in conference.

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