Colors of Lupus urges Congress to protect Medicare, Medicaid

Prevention allows those with lupus to halt the disease’s progression; if Medicare/Medicaid coverage lost, many with lupus would get irreversibly worse

LAS VEGAS – Colors of Lupus, a Nevada-based 501(c)(3) organization, today urged Congress to protect the country’s most vulnerable citizens by rejecting cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

The U.S. Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Supercommittee,” was created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and is tasked with recommending $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts by Nov. 23. Health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are likely targets for cuts, which would be devastating for American’s most vulnerable citizens, such as those with lupus.

“With lupus, there is no cure, so early diagnosis is critical,” said Hui-Lim Ang, executive director for Colors of Lupus. “If you diagnose it early, you can take preventative measures, and it will not progress. But to get to that point, there’s test after test after test. Without coverage, people can’t afford these tests, and, as a result, their disease will go undiagnosed, untreated and become more and more debilitating. This cannot be allowed to happen. Every life is important.”

The first of its kind in Southern Nevada, Colors of Lupus Nevada seeks to dispense, deliver and provide immediate physical services and support for those affected with lupus.

In Nevada alone, there are 13,500 people diagnosed with lupus. Lupus is an auto-immune disease that attacks the soft tissue of the body – including everything from major organs such as hearts, kidneys, to the eyes, to the brain, to blood cells, and there’s no telling when or where it will attack next.

Known as a “silent disease” or “a disease with 1,000 faces,” lupus already doesn’t receive the attention or urgency it deserves, Ang said.

“People suffering from lupus look normal, but they’re being killed inside,” she said. “They take two, three hours to get ready in the morning just to look and feel ‘normal.’”

Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would be devastating, as they provide patients with the preventative care that keeps more serious, and costly, conditions at bay.

Medicare Part D, for example, reduces federal spending by $12 billion by covering medications that are currently keeping seniors out of the emergency room. Medicare Part D gives more than 29 million Americans access to prescription drugs at prices they can afford. Before the creation of Medicare Part D in 2006, many treatments were too expensive for as much as a third of the elderly population. Without Medicare Part D, many seniors would have forego such medications, in which case it’s only a matter of time before they end up in the hospital, driving costs up for taxpayers.

Harry Reid, D-Nev., has done much on behalf of Nevadans to protect Medicare Part D.

“Those of us advocating on behalf of those victimized by this silent killer, lupus, and other debilitating autoimmune diseases, thank Senator Reid for his efforts to protect our vital access to treatment and for the medicines critical to sustaining quality lives and saving lives of those most vulnerable,” Ang said. “Without access or means for affordable treatments as provided by Medicare Part D, there is no hope, and without hope those afflicted and suffering from grossly debilitating diseases such as lupus are, and will continue, to be cast aside, alone, defeated and scared.”

In the case of lupus, this kind of preventative care keeps the disease from irreversibly taking a turn for the worse. Because lupus is relatively unknown and not understood, Colors of Lupus constantly loses out to more well-known health issues such as cancer and autism when applying for grant money. The organization would not be able to fund all patients’ tests and medications if they lost their Medicare and Medicaid coverage.

“While research is being conducted to find the cause and cure, lupus patients are left alone to deal with all the financial and social predicaments that haunt them. We catch the people who literally fall through the cracks of the system by providing support and services that are crucial to get them back on their feet,” Ang said. “But we just don’t have the funding to offset the debilitating loss that Medicare and Medicaid cuts would cause.”

An all-volunteer-run organization, Colors of Lupus Nevada is the first of its kind in Nevada. Established in 2007, its mission is to reclaim the lost quality of life stolen by the lupus disease by providing an establishment staffed with a permanent, compassionate and knowledgeable workforce to ensure continuous and sustainable support for those diagnosed, or soon to be diagnosed, with lupus. 

For more information on Colors of Lupus, visit www.colorsoflupusnevada.org or call 702-608-COLN (2656).

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