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Seniors’ health benefits in doubt

Molly Shore

Libby Nardo’s recent cataract laser surgery cost her $50, but without

Blue Shield 65 -- the health-insurance plan that supplements her

Medicare -- the Burbank resident said she would have had to pay


nearly $3,000.

Nardo is more fortunate than many seniors, who find themselves

over- whelmed by escalating health-care costs at a time when they

most require medical care yet can least afford it.


Because of concerns about the rising costs of health care for

seniors in the Medicare+Choice program -- a federally funded plan

that allows Medicare subscribers to receive supplemental health

coverage through HMOs and other private-sector health plans, like

Blue Shield 65 -- Nardo, 79, joined about 100 seniors at a grass-roots rally Monday at the Joslyn Adult Center. The rally was

sponsored by the American Assn. of Health Plans, the Coalition for

Medicare Choices and Healthcare Dimensions, an organization that

promotes health through physical-activity programs.


David Goodspeed, corporate communications director of Health Care

Dimensions, said the rally was meant to bring concerned seniors

together and let them know people are fighting for their rights and


“We are here today to send a strong message to Congress about the

urgent need to increase funding for Medicare HMOs and other health

plans offered through the Medicare+Choice program,” Goodspeed said.

Goodspeed was joined by Mary Swanson, president and CEO of Health


Care Dimensions; Lisa Rubino, vice president of Blue Shield of

California; and Esteban Cruz, a family-practice physician with Kaiser


The cost of health care has increased 8% to 10% annually in recent

years, due in large part to new technology and the increasing cost of

medicine, but federal funding for senior health benefits has

increased by only 2% this year, Cruz said.

“Health plans just cannot afford to offer care in the

Medicare+Choice, so they drop out,” Cruz said.

The rally’s most important message, Nardo said, was to contact

legislators in Washington, D.C., to tell them not to cut funding for

Medicare. To that end, seniors received preprinted cards to send to

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, urging them to press

for more funding.