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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Medicare

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

Friday, July 30, marked the 45th anniversary of the enactment of Medicare. The program was established when President Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965 into law. This law has forever changed the way seniors and people with disabilities receive their health care. Millions of seniors have come to rely on the Medicare program to provide them with affordable, quality, and reliable health coverage—it is one of the most popular and effective programs among the populations it serves.

Knowing this, the legislators responsible for the Affordable Care Act made sure the new law not only preserved Medicare but made it stronger. Unfortunately, recent polling done by the National Council on Aging shows that

[M]ost seniors are still confused or unaware of important aspects of [the new law] including its impact on their own Medicare coverage, the growth of Medicare, and the budget deficit.

In an effort to reach out to more seniors and “set the record straight,” the National Council on Aging recently launched a national educational campaign to help seniors understand what’s in the new law and how it will affect them. The campaign, Straight Talk for Seniors on Health Reform, provides seniors and senior advocates with several tools to help understand the new law, including several “straight talk” fact sheets.

One of the fact sheets, 5 Key Facts about the Affordable Care Act, describes five key facts about the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect seniors. The five facts are summarized below:

• The law will not cut your basic Medicare benefits—and it will make some benefits better.

Starting now, the new law will provide more help to seniors with their prescription drugs costs. In 2011, Medicare beneficiaries will begin to receive a free annual wellness visit and prevention plan as well as better care when they get sick.

• The law will reduce Medicare spending growth, extend Medicare solvency, and is projected to reduce the budget deficit.

Over the next 10 years, the new law will slow the rate of Medicare growth, and this decrease in the growth rate will save about $400 billion in that same period of time, extending the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund for an additional nine years.

• The law will make it easier to receive and pay for long-term care at home.

• The law will improve care for older adults in other ways.

Starting this year, early retirees can receive new help to keep their health insurance premiums down. Starting in 2011, Medicare will pay bonuses of 10 percent to primary care doctors to improve access.

• The law will improve health insurance coverage for most younger Americans who don’t have Medicare.

Several provisions of the law go into effect this year, bringing relief to children with pre-existing conditions, small businesses, and many others. Starting in 2014, the law will provide coverage to an estimated 32 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance.

Millions of Americans rely on Medicare now, and millions more will come to rely on it in the future. It is imperative that the program remains strong and effective for its beneficiaries. The Affordable Care Act has taken several needed steps to ensure Medicare will be there for our seniors and people with disabilities now and in the future.