On March 30, 2017, the Center for Medicare Advocacy held its fourth annual National Voices of Medicare Summit and Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, DC. 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 and some of the next-steps that it generated.
- What’s Next for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid (Sponsored by Alzheimer’s Association): 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. Dr. Berenson enlightened many with his presentation that included a note that “not everything that’s important can be measured, and not everything that can be measured is important.” Marilyn Moon from American Institutes for Research, and Kaiser Family Foundation’s Patricia Neuman also participated in the discussion that highlighted possible future threats to Medicare, ACA and Medicaid.
- Trends in Living with Advanced Illness (Sponsored by Compassion & Choices): Brian Lindberg, Coordinator of the Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment led a panel discussion with Amy Berman from the John A. Hartford Foundation, Charles Sabatino from the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Leslie Frane from SEIU, and Kim Callinan from Compassion & Choices on best practices and obstacles to improving care and expanding health care choice for individuals with advanced illness. All the panelists spoke to the importance of honing in on the needs and desires of each individual – both those needing care and those providing care. Ms. Berman shared her personal story of living with stage IV cancer and emphasized the importance of patient choice in health care decisions at all stages of illness and life. She also emphasized the great importance of palliative care in allowing her to live a full life with advanced illness. “Palliative care is my best friend,” she noted.
- Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture Award: The Center for Medicare Advocacy was honored to recognize Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 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 devastating ACA repeal bill. Also joining Senators Rockefeller and Brown was 2016 Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture honoree Tamera Luzzatto, from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
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. He encouraged continued vigilance, coordinated advocacy and public engagement. Quoting Congressman John Lewis, Senator Brown urged the gathering to “make good, necessary trouble.”
The Center also thanks Senator Brown for introducing the hospital observation bill that tries to fix this increasing problem for Medicare beneficiaries by counting all time spent in observation toward the three-day prior hospital stay requirement for skilled nursing facility care.
- Elder Justice: Recognizing and Advocating Against Abuse and Neglect (Sponsored by AARP): 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.
The Panel also included a video with a moving message from Phillip Marshall about advocating against elder abuse. Mr. Marshall, founder of Beyond Brooke, who shone the light on the abuse of his grandmother, noted that “to be complacent about elder justice, is to be complicit in elder abuse.”
- Moving Forward: Jimmo, Observation Status, Coverage for Oral Health and Audiology Care, Therapy Caps, Due Process (Sponsored by The Santa Fe Group): 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. Joe Baker discussed the BENES Act, which would improve the Medicare enrollment process. Mr. Richtman called for the inclusion of audiology coverage in Medicare in order to improve overall health outcomes, safety, and quality of life. The Center is working with the National Committee to raise awareness of the importance of adding audiology services to Medicare. 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. The Center is currently working to ensure Medicare coverage for medically necessary oral health care, while also advocating to expand Medicare to include a preventive dental and oral health benefit. 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.
- Alfred J. Chiplin, Jr. Social Justice and Advocacy Award: For decades, Alfred J. Chiplin, Jr. (Chip) was a beloved and admired leader in the elder law, disability and health care rights communities. To honor Chip’s long-term advocacy and commitment to civility and justice for all members of society, the Center for Medicare Advocacy established an award in his honor. The Alfred J. Chiplin, Jr., Social Justice & Advocacy Award, will be given annually to an individual who works to advance civility in society and social justice for all – as Chip did for decades.
Mr. Chiplin was able to present the 2017 inaugural Award personally to Mr. Ben Belton, former Senior Advisor to the Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration. In that role, Ben oversaw the development and implementation of agency initiatives for older Americans and the national aging network. Ben also worked very closely with the White House and other federal agencies on issues affecting older Americans. His commitment to aging issues was reflected in the integral role he played in planning for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging and serving on the Conference’s Elder Justice Policy Committee. Mr. Belton spoke movingly about his work on behalf of older and disabled people and his commitment to enhancing their rights and quality of life. He will surely continue Chip’s legacy of compassionate, determined advocacy.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy thanks all of our attendees, panelists, presenters and sponsors, including our generous lunch sponsor, SEIU. Your participation makes the National Voices of Medicare Summit & Sen. Jay Rockefeller Lecture a remarkable event. We look forward to further exploration together next year.
Save the Date for the 5th Annual Summit!
Thursday, March 22, 2018