On March 30, 2017, Jerry Rothkoff traveled to Washington, DC to attend the fourth annual National Voices of Medicare Summit sponsored by the Center for Medicare Advocacy. The Summit convened leading experts and advocates to discuss best practices, challenges, and successes in efforts to improve and expand fair access to health care for older people and people with disabilities.
The power of advocacy and stories of real people in fighting for positive change was a theme heard throughout the day. Speakers called on energized advocates to continue the important work of providing a voice for those who are often silenced. Below are some highlights from the Summit provided by the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
- What’s Next for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid: The Center’s executive director, Judith Stein, discussed the recent successful effort to push back Congressional efforts to repeal the ACA, and the important role played by coordinated advocacy and public activism. She moderated a panel that echoed and added to this perspective, and that considered “What Next?” The panel included Cathy Hurwit, Chief of Staff, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Sean Cavanaugh, Former CMS Deputy Administrator, and Medicare Director, Robert Berenson, Fellow at the Urban Institute and Bruce Vladeck, former HCFA(CMS) Administrator. Panelists reflected on the ACA repeal efforts that collapsed the week before the Summit. They analyzed successful advocacy strategies, including the instrumental role personal stories played in influencing the ACA repeal debate. The panelists also contemplated responses to potential future attacks on ACA, Medicaid and Medicare. Ms. Hurwit stressed the importance of advocacy in influencing policy. She noted that analysis from advocates and calls from constituents made a huge difference to members of Congress. Bruce Vladeck stated ‘if we want to have a humane and compassionate society, we must figure out a way to pay for it.”
- Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture Award: The Center for Medicare Advocacy honored Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) with this award for his extraordinary leadership in advancing access to affordable health care and justice for all. His former colleague and mentor, Senator Jay Rockefeller was present to introduce Senator Brown and provide comments regarding health care and the power of advocacy in the effort to block the ACA repeal bill. Senator Rockefeller reminded participants that those who would diminish rights are determined, and that advocates for those in need had to be equally tough and resilient. He urged us to bring “ardor” to our idealism and advocacy. Senator Brown echoed Senator Rockefeller’s recognition of the importance of advocates and an actively involved public in the recent ACA repeal battle. He also reminded us that the fight is not over. It will have to be fought again and on many fronts, he said, in Congress and in the executive branch.
- Elder Justice: Recognizing and Advocating Against Abuse and Neglect: The Center’s Kathy Holt and Toby Edelman joined AARP’s Sarah Lock and Terry Fulmer, President of the John A. Hartford Foundation, to address elder justice. Ms. Edelman highlighted how the overprescribing of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes is an often overlooked form of elder abuse through the chemical restraint of residents. Ms. Holt discussed the home health care crisis, also an elder justice issue, and the Center’s extensive advocacy in this area. From her nursing perspective, Dr. Fulmer spoke eloquently about the need to listen carefully to what patients say, do and don’t want – without making any assumptions, so that their personal needs are met.
- Moving Forward: Jimmo, Observation Status, Coverage for Oral Health and Audiology Care, Therapy Caps, Due Process: Center attorneys David Lipschutz and Ali Bers joined Dr. Michael Alfano, from the Santa Fe Group, Joe Baker, President of Medicare Rights Center, and Max Richtman, President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. The panel discussed key gaps in coverage in Medicare and how to move beyond defensive work to expand and enhance Medicare. Mr. Richtman called for the inclusion of audiology coverage in Medicare in order to improve overall health outcomes, safety, and quality of life. Dr. Alfano presented on the inextricable link between oral health and overall health of individuals in underscoring the need for oral health care coverage in Medicare. Dr. Alfano reminded everyone of the importance of this work, drawing a compelling connection between oral health and overall health – and the need for advocacy to make oral and dental health care available.