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CUTBACKS IN MEDICARE AND MEDICAID COVERAGE
MONDAY, JUNE 14, 1971
Woonsocket, R.I. The subcommittee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to call, at the Elks Hall, Woonsocket, R.I., Senator Claiborne Pell, presiding.
Present: Senator Pell.
Also present: Edward Lussier, mayor of Woonsocket; and John Skiffington, Rhode Island State Representative.
Staff members present: William E. Oriol, staff director; Kenneth Dameron, Jr., professional staff member; Keven McKenna, legislative aide to Senator Pell; John Guy Miller, minority staff director; and Janet Neigh, clerk.
Senator PELL. This Subcommittee on Health of the Elderly of the Senate Special Committee on Aging will come to order.
I think this is a historic occasion because—to the best of my knowledge--this is the first time there has been a Federal or congressional Senate committee meeting or hearing in the city of Woonsocket. Before getting to the business at hand I would like to turn over the microphone to the ranking citizen leader of Woonsocket, the mayorand an old personal friend-Ed Lussier.
STATEMENT BY EDWARD LUSSIER, MAYOR, WOONSOCKET, R.I.
Mayor LUSSIER. Thank you very much, Senator. It is certainly an honor for me to be here this morning, and greet Senator Pell as he holds these hearings on the problems of the aged-particularly in the areas of Medicare and Medicaid.
Now, we in Woonsocket are very much aware of the problems that do exist among our elderly citizens. I think the hearing itself will produce some results; and I think Senator Pell, as he holds these hearings in Woonsocket, recognizes the need of our constituents—because we do have a high percentage of elderly people within our community. Now, I suggest that you relax, and I know the Senator will be here as long as you need him. If you have questions, he is willing to listen to all of your testimony.
I think that it is a wonderful opportunity for our own people to let the Senator know-and the Committee on Aging know-what we need as far as the elderly are concerned.
Thank you very much.
Senator PELL. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of Representative Skiffington, ladies and gentlemen, who is here, too.
STATEMENT BY JOHN SKIFFINGTON, RHODE ISLAND STATE
Representative SKIFFINGTON. Thank you, Senator, Mayor Lussier, and many old and good friends in the city of Woonsocket. I am glad to see so many of you, here, concerned with the problems of the elderly. It is really heartwarming to see this wonderful turnout this morning, to be here and to express your views to Senator Pell. Senator Pell, of course, is one of our favorites and has been in Woonsocket many, many times for different things—during political campaigns and other events—but I think this is the most important visit that Senator Pell has ever made to the city of Woonsocket. I want to congratulate him on having the first senatorial hearing—or congressional hearing that ever was held, to our knowledge, in the city of
Thank you, Senator.
Senator PELL. Thank you very much, Representative Skiffington. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of the State official with the most responsibility in the area of aging. She has been very kind to come here—because this is really, in a sense, a trial run in this hearing to develop what the problems are in a local community; and, then in a period of weeks or maybe months we will have another hearing in Providence to determine what the problems are, more or less, at the statewide level and what can be done to resolve them. I would like to welcome her, and ask her if she has anything to say. Let's have a warm welcome, and ask her to stand up, and say hello Eleanor Slater, an old friend.
STATEMENT OF ELEANOR SLATER, DIVISION ON AGING, DEPART
MENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, PROVIDENCE, R.I. Mrs. SLATER. Thank you, Senator Pell; Mayor Lussier, and my former colleague in the House of Representatives, John Skiffington, it is just great to see all you people here. I know that this is going to be very meaningful because of the White House Conference on Aging that is going to be held in November. There is a meeting of the steering committee of that committee tomorrow at my office, and with all of this buildup and other hearings on a statewide basis coming this fall, sometime; and with the enthusiasm for the older people and their needs—particularly in the area of health—it is going to be most meaningful in the State. The message is certainly going to be carried by Senator Pell to the congressional delegation and the Senate.
Thank you very much, Senator.
I would also add that my colleagues in the Congress, Senator Pastore and Congressman St Germain have received invitations to come here. They would be here today except that they have other responsibilities and were glad to be invited and perhaps may be able to come yet. I would like to thank the Elks particularly for letting us have the use of this fine hall. They declined to take any rent for this hearing at all and turned it over to us for the day. I think we should have a round of applause to go to the Elks for letting us all be here. [Applause.]
I think as we move along I would be remiss if I did not thank my Senate staff and particularly Mr. McKenna, Bill Oriol, and the staff of the subcommittee who came up here and worked all weekend on this hearing.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR PELL, PRESIDING Now, as we move into the morning I want to put really in the back of your mind some thoughts, because it was nearly 6 years ago
that Congress established the Medicare and Medicaid programs. These programs were designed to relieve the health costs of our senior citizens.
Experts in Washington told Congress these health programs should be improved.
Some say that Medicare and Medicaid need to be expanded, and my own views are in that direction.
There are others at this time who are saying that the benefits of these programs should be reduced.
Today the Senate Special Committee on Aging is here in Woonsocket to hear from these panels, and the people, as to what your own views are about the Medicare program.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging has asked me, as a member of the health subcommittee, to take testimony from senior citizens of Woonsocket and those who serve them regarding changes they believe should be made in Federal health programs for the aged. Woonsocket was chosen as a hearing site, the first of this sort in our State, because of its high percentage of senior citizens nearly 23 percent of the residents are over the age of 55.
The committee believes that there are no persons better able to tell us about workings of the Medicare program than the persons who are served by it. The senior citizens themselves know the problems, they know what we are trying to do and here I would add in a more personal vein I am particularly concerned with the problems of the aging.
I remember going through some of the nursing homes and the habitations of our older citizens. I think, those who are in public life, no matter in what they are interested, are surely interested in the plight of people. Social workers, clergymen or politicians are probably more aware of the plight of older citizens, and the poor, and the sick, than the average citizen. Because the old, the sick and the feeble do not get a chance to be as visible as do the rest of our citizens their misery is often tucked under the rug. One is not aware of it and I think, for those reasons, we have a special responsibility in this
regard. (A translation, in French, of Senator Pell's opening statement follows:)
L’ÉNONCÉ DU SÉNATEUR DES ÉTATS-UNIS CLAIBORNE PELL
Il y a presque six ans le Congrès a établi les programmes de Medicare et Medicaid. Ces programmes ont creés pour servir en aidé aux citoyens agès.
Les éxperts de Washington nous ont dis que ces programmes doivent être improvés.
On dit que ces programmes Medicare et Medicaid doivent être augmentés. Les autries nous dit que ces programmes doivent être rédui. Aujourd'hui la Commission du Sénat pour les vieillards y est à Woonsocket pour écouter ce que le monde pense de ces programmes de Medicare et de Medicaid.
La Commission du Sénat m'a demandé, comme un membre du SousCommission pour la santé, de prendre de la deposition des citoyens de Woonsocket et de ceux qui les serve à l'égard de problems Medicare.
Nous avons choisi la ville de Woonsocket pour une audition parceque les citoyens agés y sont si nombreux. Presque 23 pour cent sont à l'age de cinquante et cinq ans au plus.
La Commission croit qu'il n'y a personne que les citoyens agés qu'ils nous pouvent dire de la mannière que ces programmes ont condui.
Cette audition, à présent, vient en ordre.
Senator PELL. I would like to ask the first panel on Medicare Coverage—Mr. Albert Peters, of Woonsocket; Mr. Alfred Farley, of Woonsocket, a former representative; and Mrs. Irene Chauvin of Woonsocket- come forward and sit at that table there.
I believe it is fairly appropriate that Mr. Farley lead off, as he was a representative acting in Government long before I was and perhaps he is a good leadoff witness because he is wise to the ways of Government.
STATEMENT OF ALFRED FARLEY, WOONSOCKET Mr. FARLEY. Well, Senator Pell, distinguished guests and Mayor Lussier, my name is Alfred Farley of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
Senator Pell, I want to tell you about an experience that my wife had under the Medicare program. My wife and I are covered by Medicare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield which is plan 65. It was my understanding that I had complete health coverage but a recent experience with my wife's illness has demonstrated that my health coverage was not complete. This past winter my wife was ill and was sent to the hospital. Medicare covered all the hospital costs except $71.50, and Medicare and Blue Cross covered $570.65. My physician cost was $105; Medicare and Blue Shield paid that cost. After my wife was in the hospital for about a week and a half, the director recommended that my wife would get stronger if I placed her in the Grandview Nursing Home. I thought that Medicare would cover 100 days stay but this was not true. Five days after my wife was in the nursing home, the Social Security Administration informed me through the nursing home administrator that Medicare would no longer cover the cost of my wife's stay. My wife stayed another 7 days and it cost me $140. This is a cost that I thought Medicare would cover and I was disappointed with this action. I think it is unfair.
Senator PELL. Well, I have to ask that we have all three statements and then go on to the questioning afterwards. I would like to ask Mr. Peters if he would make his statement.
STATEMENT OF ALBERT J. PETERS, WOONSOCKET
Mr. PETERS. Senator Pell, my name is Albert J. Peters, Woonsocket, R.I. Senator Pell, I want to tell you about an experience my wife had on Medicare. My wife and I are covered by Medicare, Blue Cross, and Blue Shield. We started when it was $13 and it has gone