Senior groups: Mandate ruling shouldn't affect all of health reform

Six national groups on aging are extending a warning to the Supreme Court: Do what you will with the individual mandate, but don't attach that provision with others that actually help people age 65 and older.

The groups filed an offical Brief of Amici Curiae with the Supreme Court on Friday. The "friend of the court" brief is a document filed by an entity that is not part of the litigation, but who believes that the outcome will affect its best interest.

The groups (AARP; Center for Medicare Advocacy; Medicare Rights Center; National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; National Council on Aging; and National Senior Citizens Law Center) are chiming in on the "National Federation of Independent Business et al v Kathleen Sebelius et al" and the "State of Florida et al v Department of Health and Human Services et al" cases, which challenge the constitutionality of the health reform law. In those cases, the petitioners contend that all of the ACA should fall if the minimum coverage provision is invalidated by the Court.

But if the individual mandate is a sinking ship, the groups argue, the high court should not allow other reforms, such as reduced cost-sharing for Medicare prescriptions, to go down with it.

“The health and quality of life of many older Americans are already improving because of the health reform law,” National Senior Citizens Law Center Executive Director Paul Nathanson said in a statement. “We don’t believe Congress intended to let the elderly poor languish in nursing homes or be subject to abuse if the individual mandate was found unworkable.”

The only provisions that should be affected by the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision are the pre-existing condition, the community rating and guaranteed issue provisions, the groups explain in their brief. “The rest of the ACA, including, but in no way limited to the provisions highlighted in this amicus brief, should remain intact."

Parts of the ACA that greatly benefit people age 65 and older that should not be affected should the Court decide to invalidate the minimum coverage provision, according to the brief from senior groups:

  • Reduced cost-sharing for Medicare beneficiaries for prescription drugs by substantially reducing the coverage gap or so-called donut hole
  • Elimination of cost-sharing for annual wellness visits and other screening services
  • Medicare Advantage plans are prevented from charging higher cost-sharing for chemotherapy and dialysis than permitted under traditional Medicare
  • Decreased unnecessary institutionalization of Medicaid beneficiaries
  • Improved coordination of care for people receiving both Medicare and Medicaid (dual eligibles)
  • Improved quality and safety in nursing homes and prevention of abuse and neglect of elderly and people with disabilities in nursing and other residential facilities.

More coverage of the individual mandate from BenefitsPro

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