More than 10 million Medicare beneficiaries live at or near the poverty line but it’s been hard to get much attention for reforms that could ease their burden.

House and Senate conferees appear bogged down in negotiations of a Medicare reform bill. Of course, the focus of Congressional wrangling so far has been on cuts to wasteful subsidies to private Medicare Advantage insurers and a fix to prevent a 10% pay cut to Medicare physicians, which is scheduled for the New Year.

Now, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are sending a letter to Medicare negotiators, signed by more than 30 of their Senate colleagues, urging them to support reforms in three other areas:

· Increase the asset allowance for the Part D low income subsidy so that those with very limited incomes, but modest retirement savings, can obtain the assistance the Medicare Modernization Act was intended to deliver in paying premiums and coinsurance under the drug benefit

· Update the income and asset allowances for the Medicare Savings Programs, and provide continuing inflationary adjustment for those limits. Today many fail to receive needed assistance due to an asset test which has been unchanged for two decades

· Improve outreach and enrollment in both programs

Here’s more information on the Medicare Savings Program and the Low-Income Subsidy.