National Commentary

Medicare and the New Health Insurance Reform

Disinformation has been swirling around about the impact of the new health insurance reform law on the benefits currently enjoyed by seniors.  But the fact is that Medicare – which has provided health care for Americans age 65 and older for the last 45 years – will be strengthened over the long run by the new health care reform law.

Reform will mean better benefits and lower costs, and will preserve Medicare’s solvency for years to come. Without reform for all Americans, health care costs will keep rising, and that could jeopardize Medicare’s solvency. Rising costs hit seniors’ wallets too – with the average Part D plus Part B premium consuming an estimated 12% of the average Social Security benefit in 2010 – and 16% by 2025.

Here are some of the improvements you’ll see in Medicare as a result of the new health insurance reform law:

Better primary care from your doctor

You will have access to, and can spend more time with, your primary care doctor, ensuring your care is better coordinated so you get recommended treatments, particularly for chronic diseases. Right now, about 12 million seniors lack access to a primary care doctor in their community.

Lower cost of prescription drugs

The law phases out the ‘donut hole’ for prescription drug coverage, starting with a $250 rebate for those in the donut hole in 2010 – checks that started getting mailed out this month. The law also provides a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs in the donut hole beginning next year.  The average savings for people in the donut hole will be more than $700 next year, and more than $3,000 in ten years. Right now, evidence suggests that the “donut hole” coverage gap reduces one in six seniors’ use of drugs prescribed by their doctor, posing a real health threat to seniors who simply cannot afford the drugs.

Free preventative care

The law expands coverage for preventive care. If you have Medicare, you will qualify for a new annual wellness visit, mammograms, and other screenings for cancer and diabetes – at no charge.

Right now, one in five women age 50 or over did not have a mammogram in the last two years, and 38 percent of adults age 50 or over have never had a colonoscopy – with cost often cited as the factor. But starting in 2011, you will pay nothing on recommended preventive services aimed at keeping you healthier longer.

Medicare for the next generation

Last but not least, the health reform law extends the life of the Medicare program by at least 12 years. Right now, the Medicare Trust Fund is projected to be exhausted in just seven years, in 2017, which if not addressed, could result in cuts to services.  The health reform law secures Medicare funding until at least 2026.

There are 64,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the 8th District of Virginia. If you’re one of them, you should rest easy in the knowledge that your benefits won’t go away under the new health insurance reform law. Instead, they’ll get better.

 


Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.