In a bid to protect seniors and individuals with disabilities from the escalating effects of climate change, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep.
Maxwell Frost unveiled a new bill on Wednesday
The New Bill, known as the Survival Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) Through Medicare Act, seeks to compel Medicare to fully cover the expenses of “home resiliency” equipment like heat pumps, air conditioning units, and solar batteries.
The initiative comes on the heels of Tuesday being tentatively declared the hottest day ever recorded on Earth, as sweltering heatwaves continue to pose a significant threat to regions across the globe. Older adults and individuals with disabilities are especially vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, and critics argue that governments have overlooked their needs amid the intensifying climate crisis. In the United States alone, seven severe weather events this year have caused damages surpassing $1 billion, impacting homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure.
Senator Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, stressed the importance of climate justice and disability justice, stating that in soaring temperatures and power outages, equipment such as solar batteries and heat pumps become essential medical devices. The SAFE Through Medicare Act aims to ensure the safety of individuals in their homes and prevent medical emergencies. The new bill summary highlights the devastating impact of stronger storms and more frequent heatwaves, particularly for those with medical conditions.
Representative Frost, a Democrat from Florida, emphasized the significance of the New Bill for protecting seniors and individuals with disabilities in the face of natural disasters. He argued that a disaster-ready healthcare system is crucial for helping vulnerable populations afford the necessary resources to weather storms. Fixed-income individuals in flood-prone areas are particularly at risk of losing access to life-sustaining medications and medical devices during emergencies.
The new bill will mandate the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine which equipment and services are “medically necessary” for Medicare beneficiaries in the event of climate-related extreme weather
The new bill underscores the vulnerability of Medicare recipients, who represent up to 90% of those relying on electricity-dependent medical equipment. With increasingly severe heatwaves, the absence of home infrastructure like air conditioning becomes lethal, necessitating urgent action.
A 2020 study revealed that heat-related deaths among elderly Americans nearly doubled over the past two decades, reaching a record 19,000 in 2018. Last summer, numerous elderly individuals perished due to heatwaves in homes lacking air conditioning.
Batul Hassan, the policy manager at the Climate and Community Project, praised Markey and Frost’s new bill, emphasizing its potential to alleviate suffering and ensure individuals can confront climate emergencies with dignity. Hassan stressed that secure housing plays a vital role in anticipating and meeting health needs during disasters like heatwaves, air quality crises, and floods, which are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of delayed responses to the climate crisis.