Extending healthcare coverage for millions of low-income Americans (Rep. Xavier Becerra)

As we continue moving towards health care reform, there are programs that we can improve so that the most vulnerable Americans can get the extra help they need at an affordable cost.

The Medicare Savings Program, for example, does not reach many eligible beneficiaries because the benefit rules are very restrictive and confusing, and it is difficult to apply for the program. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 33 percent of Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries and 13 percent of eligible Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries are actually enrolled in the program. This enrollment rate is much lower than other federal benefit programs.

This is why last week I introduced the Medicare Savings Program Improvement Act of 2009. This legislation makes long overdue improvements to the Medicare Savings Program and provides additional assistance to seniors for their out-of-pocket health care expenses, preventing them from having to choose between buying food and paying for the health care they need. When you live on a limited income, like so many of the Medicare beneficiaries do, every penny counts.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Rep. Lloyd Dugget (D-TX) also introduced legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate aimed at making improvements to the Medicare Savings Program and the Part D Low-Income Subsidy, which help Medicare recipients defray the cost of their Medicare premiums, cost-sharing, and prescription drugs.

For more information about this legislation, please click here.

(Representative Xavier Becerra (CA-31) is the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and senior member of the Ways and Means Committee)