BILL REQ. #: S-1663.1
|State of Washington||61st Legislature||2009 Regular Session|
Read first time 02/13/09. Referred to Committee on Health & Long-Term Care.
TO THE HONORABLE BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, AND
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES, AND TO THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
UNITED STATES, IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED:
We, your Memorialists, the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Washington, in legislative session assembled, respectfully represent and petition as follows:
WHEREAS, Created in 1965, the federal Medicare program provides health insurance coverage for more than 40 million Americans; although most of those enrolled are senior citizens, approximately 6 million enrollees under the age of 65 have qualified because of permanent and severe disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other illness or disorder; and
WHEREAS, Despite the physical and financial hardships wrought by these conditions and the fact that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is designed for individuals with a work history who paid into the social security system before the onset of their disability, federal law mandates a 24 month waiting period from the time a disabled individual first receives SSDI benefits to the time Medicare coverage begins; a prerequisite to Medicare, the SSDI program itself delays benefits for 5 months while the person's disability is determined, effectively creating a 29 month waiting period for Medicare; and
WHEREAS, This restriction affects a significant number of Americans in need; as of January 2002, there were approximately 1.2 million disabled persons who qualified for SSDI and were awaiting Medicare coverage, many of whom were unemployed because of their disability; consequently, under these conditions, by the time Medicare began, an estimated 77 percent of those individuals would be poor or nearly poor, 45 percent would have incomes below the federal poverty line, and close to 40 percent would be enrolled in state Medicaid programs; and
WHEREAS, Furthermore, it has been estimated that as many as one-third of the individuals currently awaiting coverage may be uninsured and likely to incur significant medical expenses during the 2 year waiting period, often with devastating consequences; studies indicate that the uninsured are likely to delay or forgo needed care, leading to worsening health and even premature death, and the American Medical Association has determined that death rates among SSDI recipients are the highest in the first 24 months of enrollment; and
WHEREAS, Eliminating the 24 month waiting period not only would prevent worsening illness and disability for SSDI beneficiaries, thereby reducing more costly future medical needs and potential long-term reliance on public health care programs, but could also save the Medicaid program as much as 4.3 billion dollars at 2002 program levels, including nearly 1.8 billion dollars in savings to states and 2.5 billion dollars in federal savings that would help offset a substantial portion of the accompanying increase in Medicare expenditures; and
WHEREAS, Recognizing the consequences of the waiting period to those suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, the 106th Congress passed H.R. 5661 in 2000 and eliminated the requirement for enrollees diagnosed with the disease; in passing H.R. 5661, the congress acknowledged the enormous difficulties faced by those diagnosed with severe disabilities and established precedent for the exception to be extended to all the disabled on the Medicare waiting list;
NOW, THEREFORE, Your Memorialists respectfully urge the United States Congress to enact legislation to eliminate the 24 month Medicare waiting period for participants in Social Security Disability Insurance.
BE IT RESOLVED, That copies of this Memorial be immediately transmitted to the Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and each member of Congress from the State of Washington.