NCOA Statement on Enactment of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015

Arlington, VAThe following is a statement from Howard Bedlin, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy for the National Council on Aging (NCOA), on enactment of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

Today, President Obama signed into law a bill that includes critical protections for our nation’s most vulnerable seniors with Medicare. We applaud the bipartisan effort that made this law a reality.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) makes the Qualifying Individual (QI) assistance program permanent—meaning about 500,000 low-income individuals with Medicare will no longer have to worry each year whether they can continue to get the help they need to pay their monthly premiums.

Enacted in 1997 for a 5-year period, the QI program has been included in Medicare extenders packages since 2003.  As the nation’s leading advocate for vulnerable and disadvantaged older adults, NCOA has led efforts over the past 12 years to make the QI program permanent. Now, thanks to this law, people with Medicare who have incomes between 120% and 135% of poverty ($14,100 to $15,900) and less than $7,280 in assets, will be assured that they will have access to the assistance they need to pay their Medicare Part B premiums and afford physician services.

NCOA also led the advocacy effort to increase funding to improve access to Medicare low-income protection programs like QI.  Unfortunately, less than half of those eligible for such assistance actually receive it, and more needs to be done to find and enroll these individuals. MACRA will expand resources by 50% for community-based organizations to engage in these activities—from $25 million to $37.5 million for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. Over the past 7 years, these cost-effective, local outreach efforts have assisted over 1.5 million vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities to receive help available to afford prescription drugs and other Medicare services. The increased funding will enable this important work to continue and expand to reach even more beneficiaries in need.

NCOA is proud to have played a leading role in ensuring that both of these provisions were included in the law signed by President Obama today. They directly support NCOA’s goal of improving the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020.