Five Ways Obamacare Strengthens Medicare

Forty-seven years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law—a law that now provides life-saving health care for nearly 50 million seniors and people with disabilities. In 2010, President Obama signed the health care reform law to strengthen Medicare coverage and ensure the program remains strong for future generations.

Here are five ways Obamacare strengthens Medicare:

  1. When seniors fall into the “doughnut hole,” they get a 50% discount on their prescription drugs. More than 5 million people already saved an average of $600 last year—and, come 2020, the doughnut hole will be closed for good.
  2. For the first time, Medicare now covers an annual wellness visit so seniors have the chance to sit down with their doctor and make a plan to stay healthy, rather than wait until they’re sick to see the doctor.
  3. Seniors now get free preventive care—like mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and flu shots. Last year, 33 million people with Medicare got a free service.
  4. Primary care providers across the country and surgeons that practice in areas that have a shortage of doctors now get bonus payments from Medicare, which helps make sure that everyone can get the care they need.
  5. The Affordable Care Act added 8 years to solvency of Medicare by cracking down on waste, fraud, and needless subsidies to insurance companies.

In contrast, Mitt Romney would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program. Experts have found that under a similar plan, in 2022, a typical 65-year-old senior would actually pay $6,400 more out of pocket than they would under the current system. When it comes to ensuring the economic security and health care of America’s seniors, the choice couldn’t be more clear.

CBO Confirms: The Health Care Law Reduces the Deficit

Yestrerday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its latest look at the Affordable Care Act – the health care law. This report affirms that repealing the health care law would deny tax credits for millions of middle class families and result in higher deficits and fewer Americans with insurance.

Once again, the Congressional Budget Office has found that repealing the health care law will increase the federal budget deficit by more than $100 billion in the first decade and more than a trillion dollars in the next decade.  CBO also found that 30 million Americans would remain uninsured without the Affordable Care Act.

And CBO projects that most Governors will choose to expand their Medicaid programs. The Medicaid expansion is completely paid for by the Federal government in the first three years, and the Federal government will cover at least 90 percent of these costs in the years ahead. According to CBO “…states and local governments will probably realize savings in existing programs that provide direct care to people who are uninsured or that cover uncompensated costs incurred by providers serving uninsured residents.” Other independent analysts have also found that states that fully implement the Affordable Care Act could save money through reductions in the amount they spend to care for the uninsured.

We hope states will take advantage of the options in the health care law to improve access to affordable coverage.  And history suggests that they will act.  All but two states implemented Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) within five years of enactment – despite less generous financial support than the Affordable Care Act provided for this Medicaid expansion.

As the President has said, this law is here to stay, and we will continue our efforts to work with States to deliver the benefits of the law to the American people.

Affordable Care Act: By the Numbers

Upheld last week by the Supreme Court, President Obama’s health reform law — the Affordable Care Act — ensures hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses.

“I can’t imagine us going back to the system we had before”

There are many different reasons for supporting President Obama and Democrats this fall. Four women talk about what the law means to them. It’s the difference the Affordable Care Act has made.

“The passage of health care reform was important for a lot of people in my community … President Obama needs that second term and we’ve got to get it for him.”

“I love what the President has done, but most specifically in health care reform. I used to work in an ER, and I can see how important all the changes he made are. I can’t imagine us going back to the system we had before, especially when it comes to pre-existing conditions. I give what I can because I support what this President has done.”

“It’s so hard to get affordable care in this country and my premiums keep rising. President Obama got something real done that can help people like me, and I trust him to protect it for us. I didn’t give much, but we all have to do our part.”

“I’m a diabetic, and I appreciate knowing that I will be able to continue getting the care I need regardless of my pre-existing conditions. It’s hard not to support someone who fights for you like that.”

Did You See: It’s Time to Set Up Exchanges

On Friday the New York Times published an editorial urging states like New Mexico to stop stalling on setting up insurance exchanges for the citizens in those states. The insurance exchanges that allow consumers to choose from private health insurance plans must be up and running and open for business for consumers no later than January 1, 2014 when the Affordable Health Care law goes into effect. States must inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services whether they intend to set up an exchange by November 16, 2012 or the Federal government will step in create the exchange for that state.

In its’ editorial the New York Times wrote, “States that were dawdling or refusing to set up exchanges in expectation that the Supreme Court would strike down the law have little time left to meet tight deadlines. If they fail, the federal government will establish an exchange to serve their residents, who otherwise would have no way to obtain subsidies to reduce the cost of their insurance.”

Unfortunately, thanks to the opposition of Governor Susana Martinez, New Mexico is one of those states that has failed, so far, to act. It’s well past time for Governor Martinez and her fellow New Mexico Republicans to stop playing games with the health of New Mexicans and get to work.

Read the full text of the New York Times editorial:

“Now that the health care reform law has been ruled constitutional, it is imperative that as many states as possible move aggressively to establish a centerpiece of the reform structure: new insurance policy exchanges for people who lack affordable coverage through an employer. Federal subsidies will be available for those with low or moderate incomes.

“States that were dawdling or refusing to set up exchanges in expectation that the Supreme Court would strike down the law have little time left to meet tight deadlines. If they fail, the federal government will establish an exchange to serve their residents, who otherwise would have no way to obtain subsidies to reduce the cost of their insurance.

“The exchanges will essentially be online marketplaces for private plans that provide a package of essential benefits and consumer protections like guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions. They will compete to sell policies to individuals, families and small businesses. Anyone can use the exchanges to gain the benefits of comparative shopping, but most customers are expected to be individuals and families with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. They will be eligible for federal tax subsidies to make insurance affordable.

“Many states are well on the way toward setting up exchanges, a complicated process in which governance procedures must be established, standards must be set for the plans that will compete and new information technologies put in place. The big uncertainty is how many Republican-led states will refuse to set up exchanges either because they adamantly oppose all aspects of the reform law or because they are reluctant to spend any time, effort or money to set up a mechanism that they hope Republicans will repeal after the November elections. That sounds like wishful thinking. States would be foolish to rely on it with deadlines fast approaching.

“States must tell the secretary of health and human services by Nov. 16, just 10 days after the election, whether or not they plan to set up their own exchanges. The secretary must then certify by Jan. 1, 2013, whether states are on track to start enrolling people by Oct. 1, 2013, and to actually open for business on Jan. 1, 2014.

“The Obama administration, which is eager to see the law implemented effectively, seems willing to accommodate any states that will make a good-faith effort. On Friday, the secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, announced that, in addition to grants already made to 34 states and the District of Columbia to plan their exchanges, she would open up additional financing sources that could be used even after the original start-up deadline. She also pledged to work closely with the states to tailor a federal exchange to meet their needs and a plan for transition to state control.

“That sounds like a deal that no responsible elected official should pass up in the quixotic hope that the reform law will somehow go away.”

In the news: Obamacare upheld

Newspaper editorials across the country yesterday explained why Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling is good for America:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Supreme Court ruling means a healthier America”

The details of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will be parsed and debated for months, probably years. The votes and motives of individual justices, especially the apparent swing vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, will be the favorite subject of talk shows and pundits for weeks. But the bottom line today is this: The essential provisions of the Affordable Care Act stand, and the United States will be healthier for it.

The 2010 health care law is expected to bring coverage to about 30 million uninsured people; roughly 9 in 10 eligible Americans will be covered. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26. Insurers won’t be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, nor will they be able to deny coverage to children with health problems. Limits on how much policies will pay out to each person over a lifetime have been eliminated. Improved Medicare prescription benefits will reduce health care costs for older Americans. And co-payments for preventive care for all ages have been eliminated.

Despite the claims by detractors that the law will break the national bank, insuring most Americans should, over time, help reduce the cost of health care as people are seen by primary care physicians instead of in expensive emergency rooms and as people are treated before their conditions worsen.

The Des Moines Register: “Health care ruling was a ‘win’ for Americans”

The public finally began to understand what the law contained—and what they would lose if it disappeared. They don’t want anyone taking away free preventive care, including mammograms. They don’t want to lose the opportunity to start their own business and be able to buy their own health coverage without an employer.

Americans should remember what is at stake going forward—when they vote. The public is already hearing from politicians promising to “repeal” the law and “do what the Court would not do.” That is a promise to reinstitute a system where Americans lose their health insurance when they lose a job or get sick. It is a promise to maintain a system that leaves millions of us uninsured.

Though the health reform law may need some tweaking, promises to repeal it should be met with resistance from all the Americans who will benefit from its protections and opportunities.

The News & Observer: “Supremely right”

… [No] longer will the United States remain just about the only advanced country lacking universal coverage. No longer will the worst aspects of our often outstanding health care system work against us, bankrupting some unfortunate people who are badly hurt or fall seriously ill.No longer will children in families that make too much to qualify for existing Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance go uncovered in the face of unaffordable medical costs. No longer will “pre-existing” ills disqualify people from coverage. No longer will those who lose or change their jobs—and employer-provided health insurance—be left out in the cold. Real, tangible benefits will reach tens of millions more Americans.

Los Angeles Times: “Vindication for Obamacare”

The highly polarized debate about the constitutionality of “Obamacare” was so overwrought that it obscured what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act actually does. Far from being a government takeover of health care, as its critics claim, the measure seeks to improve the current system while leaving private insurers, doctors and hospitals largely intact. Its three main, interdependent goals are to significantly reduce the number of Americans who have no health insurance, promote higher-quality care and find ways to slow the growth of health care costs.