Health care execs defend Pomeroy’s health care voteBISMARCK – North Dakota health care executives and the state chapter of the AARP are defending Rep. Earl Pomeroy’s support of House health care legislation, saying it includes new benefits for seniors and help for medical care providers.
By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press Writer, INFORUM
BISMARCK – North Dakota health care executives and the state chapter of the AARP are defending Rep. Earl Pomeroy’s support of House health care legislation, saying it includes new benefits for seniors and help for medical care providers.
The Democratic incumbent’s supporters attempted Monday to counter television ads run by the 60 Plus Association, an Alexandria, Va.-based organization that has accused Pomeroy of betraying seniors by backing the legislation. North Dakota has about 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries.
At a Monday news conference at the AARP state headquarters in Bismarck, Pomeroy called the ad false and misleading and said it was more intense than any political attack he has experienced during nine campaigns for Congress. He plans to run for his 10th term next year.
“I couldn’t watch a Sunday football game without seeing several times how I was hurting North Dakota seniors,” Pomeroy said. He is spending $150,000 in campaign money to buy television time to respond, he said.
The 60 Plus Association, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to the AARP, argues the House measure would reduce federal Medicare spending by $400 billion.
The actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said last week that the legislation could slow the growth of Medicare spending by
$571 billion through 2019, and Congressional Budget Office reports have estimated similar reductions.
Pomeroy argued that the reduced spending would not affect seniors’ medical care or their ability to choose their doctors. Eliminating fraud and cutting extra payments to insurance companies that offer “Medicare Advantage” programs would account for much of the savings, he said.
James Martin, president of the 60 Plus Association, did not respond Monday to telephone messages left for comment. Martin has said previously that the ad is true, and the organization has targeted eight Democratic House members, including Pomeroy, for supporting the measure.
Janis Cheney, North Dakota state director for AARP, said the House bill would gradually improve Medicare prescription drug benefits and eliminate cost-sharing payments for seniors who undergo tests to detect colon cancer, glaucoma and other diseases.
At present, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit requires seniors to pay the entire cost for their prescriptions once they have bought $2,700 worth of drugs. The benefit restarts once they have spent another $4,350 on prescriptions; after that, Medicare beneficiaries pay 5 percent of the cost of their drugs.
The gap is called the “doughnut hole,” and the House legislation closes it in steps, completely eliminating it in 2019.
Representatives of the North Dakota Medical Association, the North Dakota Healthcare Association and the North Dakota Nurses Association praised Pomeroy’s role in helping to develop the House bill.
Andrew Wilson, president of St. Alexius Medical Center of Bismarck, said Pomeroy has worked against a government-run “public option” insurance plan that would have reimbursed health care providers at Medicare rates.
Because Medicare reimbursements for North Dakota medical providers are skimpy, a public option linked to Medicare rates would have been devastating to the state’s hospitals and medical providers, Wilson said.