Health Reform Turns 1
This week, we mark the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by reviewing the law’s immediate and long-term improvements to Medicare, and by separating fact from fiction. In the year since the ACA’s enactment, nearly four million people with Medicare have already benefited. All Medicare consumers who entered the Medicare drug benefit’s coverage gap—commonly known as the “doughnut hole”—in 2010 received a one-time $250 rebate. In addition, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the nearly 48,000 consumers who have already entered the doughnut hole this year have saved a combined $38 millionthrough the 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs. The ACA closes the doughnut hole over the next 10 years by decreasing consumers’ share of out-of-pocket costs for both brand-name and generic drugs during the coverage gap, until that cost-sharing reaches the standard amount of 25 percent.
Read the HHS press release on the closure of the doughnut hole and other improvements for people with Medicare made possible by the ACA.
Read Medicare Right Center’s fact sheet “Closing the Doughnut Hole.”
Read Medicare Rights Center’s fact sheet “The Doughnut Hole in 2011.”
Another improvement to Medicare, which took effect on January 1 of this year, grants people with Medicare access to free preventive services, such as cardiovascular, osteoporosis and diabetes screenings. In addition, people with Medicare can take advantage of the new annual wellness visit, during which providers and patients may establish preventive care plans. This new benefit has already proven popular: according to HHS, 150,000 Medicare consumers took advantage of the wellness visit between January 1 and February 23, meaning 2,800 people per day have used this new benefit.
Read the HHS press release on preventive services.
Read Medicare Right Center’s fact sheet “Medicare-Covered Preventive Services.”
In recognition of the one-year anniversary, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), a coalition of 65 national nonprofit organizations that work on behalf of older Americans, sent a letter of support to members of Congress. The letter outlined how the ACA improves the lives of people with Medicare and highlighted lesser-known provisions of the law, including increased investments in programs that will help older Americans continue to live in their communities rather than enter long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
Read the full LCAO letter.
The Medicare Rights Center has also done its part over the last year to help consumers better understand the law and clear up confusion caused by widely circulated misinformation. This week, Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, presented a free public webinar on the ACA that covered improvements the Medicare Part D prescription benefit, new Medicare-covered services, expansion of long-term care services and supports, and changes to Medicare private health plans (Medicare Advantage).
Watch the recorded webinar.
Medicare Rights Center has also published a series of fact sheets that explain how the ACA affects people with Medicare. The law reduces Medicare spending and increases Medicare’s financial stability—extending the trust fund for 12 years—without cutting the Medicare benefit package or shifting costs to consumers. Many deficit-reduction proposals currently under consideration by policymakers would eliminate the Medicare program and replace it with a voucher system or increase coinsurance and premiums for all Medicare consumers. In contrast, the ACA attempts to reign in spending through reducing overpayments to private insurance companies in Medicare Advantage, cracking down on Medicare fraud, and implementing a series of delivery system reforms that emphasize care coordination and begin to pay providers for the quality rather than the quantity of services they provide.
Read Medicare Rights Center’s fact sheet “Questions and Answers on Medicare and Health Reform.”
Read Medicare Rights Center’s fact sheet “Health Reform and Medicare: A Timeline of Implementation.”
Read Medicare Rights Center’s fact sheet on “New Open Enrollment and Disenrollment Periods.”
Learn more about delivery system reforms.
As always, we invite you to share your story with us on how the ACA has or will help you. Please also send us your questions about health reform’s impact on Medicare. Medicare Rights Center experts may answer your questions in upcoming installments of our regular feature Health Reform Q&A.
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