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Obamacare – What Seniors Need to Know

Recent studies have shown that most Americans, while fearful of President Obama’s new health insurance plan, (something which many opposed to the plan have been quick to capitalize on) don’t really know what’s in it.  This is partly due to the President’s failure to educate the general public about it.  The complexity and broad scope of the law no doubt have something to do with it as well.    There are, however, some important features of interest to seniors and their loved ones. 

 The Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed and the President signed into law in March, 2010 will expand health care coverage for all Americans.  No guaranteed benefits under Medicare Part A or Part B are being cut.  Some provisions of the new law will take effect immediately.  Others will be phased in over the next several years.

 Seniors will receive a big benefit immediately with assistance with the infamous Medicare Part D donut hole.  The donut hole is the Part D coverage gap.  When a Medicare beneficiary surpasses the prescription drug coverage limit, he/she is then responsible for all prescription drug costs until expenses reach the catastrophic limit.  Each year everyone starts at zero again so many seniors incur this cost year after year.

 A $250 rebate will be paid to Medicare beneficiaries who reach the donut hole in 2010 (even by $1).  Seniors will receive these checks automatically.  They do not need to fill out any special forms.  Be careful, however, as there are scams in which it is claimed that you can pay a fee to get your check faster.  Not true.  Beginning in 2011, upon reaching the donut hole, seniors will received a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs and a 7% discount on generic prescription drugs.  By 2020 the donut hole will be gone and Medicare beneficiaries will instead pay 25% of the cost until they reach catastrophic coverage levels.

 Another change beginning in 2011 will be coverage for preventative care.  Medicare will cover one annual wellness exam for each beneficiary.  There will be no cost sharing for these services.

 Stay tuned next week for some more features of the new health care plan that will affect seniors.