What the health care act means for seniors

For so many Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid, yesterday’s historic Supreme Court ruling was a major victory. According to the New York Times, many improvements that had initially passed in the bill early in 2010 and which could have evaporated had the law been overturned, have now been solidified into the act.
Most important perhaps is the preservation of certain initiatives for advancing efforts to support elderly and disabled people in their homes, rather than in nursing homes, says the NYT. This includes the Community First Choice Option, “which assists states with the costs of in-home programs for people who would otherwise be institutionalized, and the Balancing Incentive Program, which increases federal matching Medicaid funds in states with less coverage for home and community services.
“Amid the general applause from advocates for the elderly, several leaders said they foresaw ongoing Medicaid tussles with Congress and state governments,” the NYT reports. “But for now, they were all smiles.”
The Christian Science Monitor along with other reputable news outlets covering the milestone ruling are, however, reporting the concerns that some senior citizens may now have.

“Some seniors may lose Medicare benefits they now enjoy,” CSM explains. “Many others will gain from an enhancement of Medicare’s prescription-drug program.”
The differing messages may lie in the differing types and level of care that each American citizen requires. To make heads or tails of what it means for you, here are a few specifics to make note of, courtesy of the NYT:

  • The annual free wellness exam, which 2.2 million people took advantage of, according to AARP, will continue, along with the first free “Welcome to Medicare” visit.
  • A number of preventive services, including mammograms, bone scans and depression and diabetes screenings no longer involve deductibles and co-pays.
  • The gradual closing of the dread “doughnut hole” gap in Part D drug coverage by 2020 will proceed, bolstered by discounts that have already lowered drug costs. “The average Medicare beneficiary will continue to save an average $650 a year,” Max Richtman, who leads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in Thursday’s teleconference. “That’s real money, especially for seniors.”
  • And starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will help husbands and wives hold onto more of their assets if a spouse must spend down to qualify for Medicaid.