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October 8, 1998

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These HMOs say they are just looking after their bottom line. Well, I believe the health of our parents must be America's bottom line. I am determined to do everything in my power to protect older Americans dropped by their HMOs and to make sure this does not happen again.

President Bill Clinton
October 8, 1998

Today, President Clinton unveils a three-part initiative to respond to decisions made by some Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to drop out of the Medicare program. These initiatives will help beneficiaries who have been dropped by their HMOs and take steps to prevent this from happening in the future.

Standing Up For Older Americans. President Clinton firmly believes that Medicare should not -- and will not -- be held hostage to threats by HMOs to leave the program unless they can increase cost-sharing and reduce benefits to Medicare beneficiaries. To reassure Medicare beneficiaries affected by HMO withdrawals that they know all their rights and options, including: that they are automatically eligible for traditional fee-for-service Medicare and that the law guarantees them access to a number of Medigap policies that help fill Medicare's coverage gaps, the President is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to:

  • Enlist a wide range of public and private partners that represent tens of millions of older Americans to provide members with the information they need through newsletters, conferences, training partners, and targeted information campaigns;
  • Post the newest and most up-to-date information about plan withdrawals on the Medicare Internet site, www.Medicare.gov that provides commonly asked questions and answers for Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and insurance counselors;

A New Policy To Encourage Health Plans To Enter Markets That Have Been Abandoned. The President announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will speed up its review and approval of HMOs seeking to enter markets that have been left without a managed care option. Any such applications will receive first priority for review and HHS will seek to expedite their entrance into the market as long as they meet solvency, quality, and other standards that protect beneficiaries.

Developing New Legislative Options To Help Assure Beneficiaries Are Protected In The Future. President Clinton is committed to providing sufficient options for beneficiaries and reduce the likelihood that beneficiaries will face this kind of turmoil in the future. The President is asking Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala to work with Congress, health plans, and advocates of older Americans to recommend specific legislative proposals to be included in the President's next budget that are designed to enhance plan participation and beneficiary protections.

Calling On Congress To Reauthorize The Older Americans Act. One of the most important ways older Americans get critical information and counseling about health-care options is through the programs provided by the Older Americans Act. Today, the President sent a letter to Senator Lott and Speaker Gingrich urging them to pass legislation that has broad bi-partisan support to reauthorize the Older Americans Act before Congress adjourns. Failure to do so would call into question our nation's commitment to the vital services this important Act provides to older Americans.

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