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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A chat with the President

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

Today, President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined in on a national conference to talk about how health reform will affect seniors. People at dozens of viewing parties around the country tuned in to find out more about what’s in the new law and how generations to come will have the safety and security of having access to quality, affordable health care during retirement.

President Obama focused much of the conversation on the tangible benefits seniors will see. The new law mandates that preventive services, such as mammograms, will be offered free of charge. As President said, “The best way to prevent a serious illness is to diagnose it early.”

The federal government will also be mailing $250 checks to people with Medicare who have entered the doughnut hole. This help will be especially valuable for those with– limited or fixed incomes who must pay out-of-pocket for costly medication while they are in doughnut hole. These checks are just a first step. Starting next year the new law creates a drug discount program that will eliminate the doughnut hole completely by 2020.

The new law also focuses on quality—including a comprehensive agenda of innovative models that will be tested and carefully evaluated to see if they fulfill the promise of achieving higher quality, while also slowing down the growth of the cost of care for seniors. A new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation will monitor these new approaches for success in the Medicare program and then help expand models that best serve the needs of people with disabilities and seniors—to more Medicare beneficiaries and to the rest of the health care system. Medicare will be at the leading edge of health care quality improvements in our nation.

Furthermore, in order to ensure that Medicare is available to Americans for generations to come, President Obama spoke about how provisions in the bill will help cut down on fraud, waste, and abuse. With less waste in the system, Medicare will not only become more solvent, but will provide seniors with the best possible health care for their money.

And while opponents of health reform have been out in full force—some even suggesting that we should repeal the bill—President Obama knows that we’ve achieved too much to take steps back. He remarked, “We’re not going back, we’re moving forward. That’s why I was elected.”

President Obama and Congress didn’t tackle health care reform because it was easy. They worked to reform our broken system because, as the President said, “Our system has frayed along the edges and left a lot of people out… we decided we were going to stand up to make sure everyone has a shot.”

Thanks to the new law, seniors will get relief from the prescription drug gap; they’ll be able to get free preventive care; and they can rest assured knowing that Medicare will still be around for their kids and grandkids.