Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Health-Care Reform - What It Means for Seniors

My Congressman, Jim Himes, just sent me an email telling me why the new health-care bill is so good for seniors. It will give them all sorts of new benefits. As I read all that it purports to do, I just kept seeing the dollar signs roll by. It was like looking at a hospital, cable TV or cell phone bill getting totaled up. How are we going to pay for all this, especially as the baby boomers come under Medicare? New benefits cost money.

Himes claims the cutting of subsidies for Medicare Advantage plans will pay for most of it. He said those plans waste money. Maybe they do. If that's true, then we're off to a good start because the reform we need is to start cutting costs and cutting fraud. As I read the list, I could only see two things that would cut costs -- not paying hospitals for mistakes and infections and incentives for people to lead healthier lifestyles. (What those incentives are, Himes didn't say.) The problem is that I can't see this really happening. What I can see is costs rising and insurance premiums doubling.

When my daughter moved from Connecticut to Massachusetts, which has a plan/law like the one Congress just passed, her individual health insurance premiums doubled. While she is now in an HMO to hold down her costs, it takes her months to get in to see a doctor. Is this what is going to confront all of us as we enter this brave new world? I fear that without the public option for competition, health insurance premiums will more than double and the scare resource of doctors will become scarcer.

But back to what seniors get. Here is a link to a Web site Congressman Himes posted, as well as his email. Read what he calls the facts for yourself. Make up your own mind.
http://himes.house.gov/uploads/HealthCareReform_SeniorsBenefits.pdf

And here is his email in full:

Dear Friends,
Last week, The House of Representatives passed the most sweeping health care reform in a generation. This reform will improve access to quality, affordable health care for citizens of all ages. It also ensures seniors keep the benefits they currently receive, while strengthening Medicare in the short and long term.
Much confusion has been reported over cuts to Medicare. Let me be clear: reports that this plan cuts Medicare are false. This legislation fully protects Medicare benefits and extends the solvency of the program for almost a decade by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse but never benefits. It does this by targeting subsidies to private insurance companies that are robbing the system to pad their bottom lines instead of improving benefits.
Immediately, the plan begins closing the "donut hole" to lower seniors' prescription drug costs. Medicare beneficiaries who hit the "donut hole" will receive a $250 rebate right away to make life-saving drugs more affordable. People inside the donut hole will also have an immediate 50% discount on brand-name drugs. The plan also requires Medicare and insurance companies to provide important preventive services like immunizations and screenings for diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis free of charge.
The new reform law improves the quality and coordination of care for seniors so individuals don't undergo unnecessary procedures because of poor medical records or a lack of coordination among caregivers. This reform also expands home and community-based services to keep people in their homes instead of nursing homes.
For more information about how health care reform will affect seniors, click here.
If you have appreciated the timely email updates you have received from me over the past few days, please subscribe to my email newsletter. Due to House rules regarding mass communication near elections, I will soon be unable to send information like this unless you have opted into my communications list. You can subscribe in the right-hand corner of this message.
Thank you for time. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call or write my office.
Sincerely,
Jim

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