That's a common question that Raising Women's Voices coordinators are encountering as we present community forums around the nation on what is in the new health reform law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, we are not the only ones getting this question!
On Tuesday, June 8 at 11:15am EDT, President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will participate in a national town hall with senior citizens to discuss the Affordable Care Act. This event will be shown on WhiteHouse.gov/live. The administration has also put together a fact sheet on the topic: Health Reform for American Seniors (PDF).
There are two major pieces of immediate good news for people on Medicare in the new health reform law. First, those Medicare enrollees who have Part D Prescription Drug coverage and keep falling into the coverage "donut hole" will get some relief right away. This month, the administration will start mailing out $250 rebate checks to seniors who have exhausted their initial prescription drug coverage benefits and are stuck paying the full cost of drugs themselves until they reach the dollar threshold when coverage begins again. Over a period of years, the "donut hole" will be gradually closed, under the health reform law.You can learn more about the phasing out of the donut hole by reading a fact sheet from our colleagues at the Medicare Rights Center here.
The second piece of good news is that as of next year (2011), every Medicare enrollee will get a free annual wellness visit and personalized prevention plan with no required co-pays or deductibles. In addition, deductibles and co-pays will be eliminated for preventive services that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. You can read more about the various changes health reform will make to Medicare and when they go into effect here.
While Medicare enrollees are generally pleased with this good news, many are still quite worred about the overall impact of health reform on their coverage. The two major concerns we've been hearing are these: 1. Why is my doctor telling me he (or she) won't take Medicare patients anymore? and 2. Won't all the big cuts planned in Medicare mean my benefits will be cut? Here's what we know about these topics:
Doctors refusing to take Medicare: This situation is not a result of the new health reform law. Instead, it is being caused by a previously planned cut of 21 percent in doctors' Medicare reimbursement rates. Congress is trying to rescind the cut through a so-called "doctor fix" amendment to a pending bill, but can't reach agreement on how to do it or, more importantly, how to pay for it. Read more here. The cut was supposed to take effect June 1, 2010, but the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services ordered a temporary freeze on doctors' pay until Congress could act.
Impact of Medicare cuts: The health reform law includes more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade. Naturally, Medicare enrollees are worried that these cuts will turn into reductions in their benefits. Supposedly, that will not be the case. The cuts are actually reductions in the planned rate of increase in the government's payments to provides such as hospitals and nursing homes.
The best source of more detailed information on the impact of health reform on Medicare is the Medicare Rights Center. Click here to read their question-and-answer sheet on this topic.