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Waiting Period for Medicare Harms Thousands, Report Says

April 11, 2007 -- Some 600,000 severely disabled Americans waiting the required two years to qualify for Medicare go into debt or skip health care during that period, according to a report released Wednesday by the Medicare Rights Center and The Commonwealth Fund.

Citing the report, which chronicles the experiences of 21 disabled people during the two-year period, the center and several other advocacy groups urged elimination of the two-year waiting period. The period begins after people are deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration because of incapacitating health conditions. Robert Hayes, president of the center, said eliminating the period would cost $8.7 billion annually, with $4.3 billion of that cost offset by reduced Medicaid spending. Joining the center in urging elimination of the period were Easter Seals, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and other organizations.

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