The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010, just about 14 months after Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. Since that time, the GOP and several political action committees have made it their goal to repeal the law. Even the Supreme Court got involved when the individual mandate was challenged as “unconstitutional.” But the whole concept of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to do just that; make “care” more “affordable.” The ACA provides new ways to help hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to coordinate care for beneficiaries so that health care quality is improved and unnecessary spending reduced.
Why have seniors felt targeted?
One of the major talking points of the last election was the Republicans’ claim that Obamacare was being funded on the “backs of seniors,” by cutting Medicare. Unless one was skeptical of this claim, it may have seemed plausible. However, the truth is that it is that money was found through cuts in Medicare fraud aimed at healthcare providers, not at Medicare recipients.
According to a recent article from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, “How the Affordable Care Act Helps Seniors,” many older Americans are benefitting from provisions of the law, such as preventive care services and reduced Medicare prescription drug costs.
Here are some of the other ways that ACA will help seniors:
Expanded Medicare Benefits
Under the ACA, Medicare benefits will not be reduced or taken away, but rather are expanding. On average, Medicare beneficiaries will save about $4,200 over the next 10 years due to lower drug costs, free preventive services and reductions in the growth of health spending. Since its passage in 2010, more than 6.6 million people with Medicare saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs. Free
Annual Wellness Visit and Other Preventive Services
Thanks to Obamacare, Medicare beneficiaries are now eligible to receive many preventive care services for free. These include everything from cancer screenings, flu shots and smoking cessation counseling. An annual wellness visit and basic lab tests are also covered 100%. Since the law was passed in 2010, more than 32.5 million seniors have taken advantage of at least one of these free services.
Reduced Premiums for Medicare Part B
Because the reforms of ACA have been successful in making Medicare more efficient, the Part B premiums have been reduced. Not only did the monthly premium for Part B go down in 2012 and 2013; the annual deductible was also decreased for the first time in Medicare’s history.
Closing the Donut Hole in Prescription Drug Costs
Medicare beneficiaries who fall into the coverage gap, known as the "donut hole," now automatically receive a discount on prescription drugs. By taking a phased approach, each year beneficiaries will pay a reduced cost for brand name and generic drugs within the coverage gap. By 2020, the donut hole will be closed. In 2013 alone, Medicare beneficiaries in the donut hole will receive a 52.5 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 21 percent discount on generic drugs. On average, seniors who reached the donut hole saved about $1,061 per beneficiary. Also, in 2010 nearly four million people who were in the donut hole received a one-time $250 tax-free rebate to help offset the cost of prescription drugs.
Improvements for Medicare Advantage Plan Members
According to the article, Medicare Advantage plans cannot charge enrollees more than traditional Medicare for skilled nursing home care, chemotherapy treatment and other specialized services. Beginning in 2014, the health care law will provide additional protections for Medicare Advantage plan members by taking steps to limit some of the plan’s administrative costs, as well as insurance company profits and “items other than health care” to 15 percent of their Medicare payments.
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