Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Goal: 'Health-care independence' for seniors

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new senior-citizens interest group wants Congress to give seniors “health-care independence” by July 4.

        The Greater Cincinnati Senior Citizen Health Care Initiative issued a four-point agenda for health-care reform at a news conference Tuesday at the Clifton Senior Center. The group also called on Congressmen Rob Portman, Steve Chabot and Ted Strickland to hold a public hearing on senior health issues.

        The group's proposals include:

        • Expanding Medicare to cover prescription drugs, dental, hearing, vision and mental-health ben efits, regardless of income.

        • Allowing HMOs to compete with Medicare, but only if they offer at least the same expanded benefits. Also, HMOs would not be allowed to drop members once accepted.

        • Creating a national cost-oversight committee, similar to one in Canada, for drugs and medical supplies.

        • Expanding national medical-research funding.

        “We have an unprecedented budget surplus,” said coalition member Gene Robinson. “... Senior citizens should be taken care of first.”

        The senior citizen health-care initiative was organized by Marilyn Hyland, who last year lost a Democratic primary challenge to Todd Portune for a seat on the Hamilton County Commission.

        The group includes seniors, several doctors and other community activists who have been meeting regularly since three Medicare HMOs dropped nearly 27,000 seniors as they pulled out of town.

        Blue Ash resident Jeanne Hubbard, 60, said she has been frustrated with Medicare and health insurance in general ever since her husband, Don, was disabled by a stroke seven years ago.

        To her, health-care reform could be this simple: “I would love to get the coverage the people in Congress have.”

Most seniors dropped by HMOs yet to pick backup

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