Since beginning his career as co-founder of Oregon’s Gray Panthers, an advocacy organization for the elderly, and director of Oregon Legal Services, Senator Wyden has never stopped fighting for America’s seniors. As a member of the House of Representatives he authored the Medigap law regulating the private market for Medicare’s supplemental insurance policies. In 1997, Wyden passed a law updating Medigap regulations to require private insurance companies offering supplemental Medicare polices to guarantee issue to all eligible individuals regardless of health status or preexisting conditions. Those laws not only protected seniors from unscrupulous insurance practices, they remain the model for consumer protection today.
In the early 1990’s working with then Representative Olympia Snowe, Wyden was among the first to propose bipartisan legislation to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare and he has been the Senate’s leading proponent of empowering Medicare to use its market power to negotiate better drug prices for seniors.
During the 2009 health reform debate, Wyden successfully fought efforts to eliminate the Medicare Advantage program and instead attached an amendment to the Affordable Care Act creating a 5 star system to rate the quality of Medicare Advantage plans and reward the highest quality plans with bonus payments. In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that, thanks in part to this reform, enrollment in Medicare Advantage is up and more seniors have high quality health coverage.
Wyden’s “Independence at Home” program also passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, creating Medicare’s first home-based health program for seniors with chronic illnesses and he successfully amended Medicare rules to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries who go into hospice care do not have to give up the prospect of a cure. Wyden has received numerous award for his work on seniors issues including the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for his hospice advocacy and his work on nursing home quality has been credited as the source of Medicare’s five-star rating system for nursing homes.
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