Senior citizens certainly had reason to worry during the debates over health care reform. Some of the most pervasive rumors involved people over the age of 65. For example, many claimed that health care reform legislation would involve dramatic cuts in service for Medicare recipients, which is untrue. Also false was the rumor that old people would be forced to face death panels, which would decide who could receive certain medical services. Nothing resembling such a panel was ever on the table.
So what was in the Affordable Care Act? As it turns out, a great many of the bill's provisions will benefit senior citizens, and we've got five examples right here.
Have you ever felt like you couldn't trust someone? It's one of the worst feelings in the world, and seniors, in particular, are often the targets of fraud and deception. Billions of dollars and countless hours are wasted every year due to criminal exploitation of Medicare. Sometimes fraud occurs because an unsavory doctor misuses the Medicare numbers he or she can access; other times, criminals steal Medicare numbers from unwitting seniors. The Affordable Care Act contains a $350 million investment to fight fraud as well as provisions that will attack those who defraud the system. Seniors, you can do your part to ensure you're not a victim: Check your Medicare statement to make certain that you received the services listed, and never give your Medicare number to someone who calls on the phone or comes by your home.
Before the Affordable Care Act was signed, Medicare's future was dire. Experts had concerns that the Medicare Trust Fund, a major source of financial backing for Medicare, would go bankrupt. In August 2010, though, the Medicare Board of Trustees announced that the fund's outlook had substantially improved due to new regulations in the health care reform legislation. Because of the legislation's commitment to reduce waste, abuse and billing errors within the Medicare system, the trustees reported that the fund is projected to remain solvent until 2029. That's a 12-year extension from previous estimates.
Under the Affordable Care Act, new insurance plans will have to offer preventive care at no out-of-pocket costs. That goes for seniors on Medicare as well. Starting in 2011, seniors are eligible for a free annual physical, which will provide another opportunity to discuss ongoing health needs with your doctor. Seniors can also receive screenings for conditions like colorectal cancer and breast cancer without a co-pay or a deductible fee. The best way to stay healthy is to avoid getting sick in the first place, so these preventive screenings and regular checkups are supposed to catch problems before they become serious.
The Medicare benefits that you receive will stay exactly the same. Nothing will be reduced or taken away. You will still be able to choose your own doctor or see your current doctors. This standard goes for those who are on the original Medicare plan, as well as those who have Medicare Advantage. The funding for Medicare Advantage will change, but in a way that benefits everyone on Medicare. The government has to pay extra money for people on Medicare Advantage -- more than $1,000 per person, on average -- but these extra funds don't go toward extra care. Instead, it's like a subsidy for the insurance companies. The new law cuts these additional payments, which will save money for all Medicare participants. Regardless of the cuts, those enrolled in Medicare Advantage will receive the same benefits they currently do.
If you have prescription drug coverage through Medicare, then you know about the doughnut hole -- a gap in coverage that made it difficult to afford medications. Seniors had assistance paying for medications up until a certain dollar amount, and then they were on their own until they reached another dollar amount. The Affordable Care Act closes the doughnut hole over the next 10 years and provides financial help until the gap is fully closed. In June 2010, the government began mailing $250 rebate checks to help seniors pay for their medications, and in 2011, seniors will receive a 50 percent discount on approved brand-name prescription drugs.
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- Affordable Care Act Quiz
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- 10 Myths about U.S. Health Care Reform
- Top 5 Questions to Ask When Shopping for Health Insurance
- How can you protect yourself from Medicare fraud?
- How are young adults benefiting from U.S. health care reform?
- What is HealthCare.gov?
- "Closing the Prescription Drug Gap." Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. May 2010. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11464.pdf
- Cooper, Helene and Robert Pear. "Obama Gets Tough on Health Care Fraud." New York Times. March 10, 2010. (July 22, 2010)http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/11/health/policy/11health.html
- "Health Reform for American Seniors." The White House. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/health_reform_seniors.pdf
- HealthCare.gov Web site. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.healthcare.gov/
- "How is Medicare Funded?" Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. September 2009. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11396.pdf
- "Medicare and the New Health Care Law -- What It Means for You." Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. May 2010. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11467.pdf
- "Medicare Trustees Report Shows Substantial Improvement in Financial Status as a Result of the Affordable Care Act." CMS Office of Public Affairs. Aug. 5, 2010. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.cms.gov/apps/media/press/factsheet.asp?Counter=3823
- "Summary of New Health Reform Law." Kaiser Family Foundation. June 18, 2010. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.kff.org/healthreform/upload/8061.pdf
- "Trustees Announce Solvency of Medicare Trust Fund Extended by 12 Years to 2029." Department of Health & Human Services. Aug. 5, 2010. (Aug. 26, 2010)http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/08/20100805d.html