Social Security Transparency Will Promote Improved Choice and Control (Rep. Charles Boustany)

Tuesday's edition of The Hill mentioned millions of uninsured Americans who have received little attention from the Bush Administration during the growing debate over SCHIP reauthorization.

Many Americans lack adequate public or private coverage for catastrophic long-term care (LTC) expenses. Worse yet, many of these families mistakenly assume Medicare will pay for LTC services, while it generally does not.

The Government Accountability Office identifies this confusion as a threat to our nation's retirement security and urges government agencies to raise Baby Boomers awareness about their need for and lack of adequate coverage. Despite funding from Congress for LTC education activities, the Bush Administration has taken a passive approach to promoting health care transparency in this area.

HHS bureaucrats decided not to inform 90 percent of households contacted through their LTC awareness direct mail campaign that Medicare does not generally cover most long term care services that are needed. To his credit, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt recently assured Congress that HHS would begin to include this type of language in future mailings.

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue should follow his lead and add similar language to Social Security statements that reach more than 143 million Americans annually. As written, the list of Medicare-covered services only adds confusion.

By increasing transparency within the Social Security statement, Commissioner Astrue will enable Americans to make informed retirement decisions and permit families to have greater independence, choice and control over the services they need in the setting they prefer.