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Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013

Understanding Obamacare: Medicare Will Be Strengthened

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Question: How is Medicare impacted by Obamacare?

Answer: As open enrollment for Medicare is upon us, it’s important to look at what reform means—and doesn’t mean—for one of America’s most important forms of social insurance. The Affordable Care Act does very little to change current beneficiaries’ relationship to the program, but there are important changes that strengthen the program for future generations.

First, Obamacare cracks down on waste, fraud and abuse on a major scale not seen before. In the first three years, the law has found $10.7 billion in waste and fraud. This is not primarily caused by individuals, but medical suppliers and providers who have been overcharging for years.

Second, the law ends handouts to insurance companies that sold Medicare products. They’d convinced the federal government long ago to give them large subsidies with little measurable benefit.

Lastly, Medicare now offers preventive care with no out-of-pocket costs, encouraging beneficiaries to get treatment early and often. Reducing costly emergency room visits and finding conditions early reduces health costs in the long term.

These savings are reinvested back into the system and new benefits. The Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap, or “donut hole,” will soon be closed completely. And health care providers are being paid more for higher quality services than those whose service is poor.

But for most people Medicare will be the same. It is important to know that while millions of Americans will begin to access health coverage on the new marketplace at healthcare.gov, the way to access Medicare, supplements, Part D plans or Advantage will not change. These plans will not be found on this new marketplace.

So how does Obamacare impact Medicare? It provides new benefits now and strengthens the program for future generations—all without cutting a dime of seniors’ benefits.

The Shepherd Express and Citizen Action of Wisconsin will answer questions about the Affordable Care Act during its implementation. Got a question? Email editor@shepex.com.