What's Happening to Medicare? Facts for older Oklahomans

Sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system were enacted in recent years and talk of even more changes continues to reverberate in debates over the federal budget.  Central to the discussion and always a lightning rod in health care debates is the future of Medicare, a federally subsidized health insurance program for people over 65 or with certain disabilities.  Beyond policy change, there are myriad factors potentially affecting older Oklahoman’s access to medical care:  the recent recession, rising health care and prescription drug costs, and the state’s budget shortfall.  This post provides older Oklahomans with information from and links to trusted sources what is changing with respect to Medicare.

The new national health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), went into effect on March 23, 2010.  The official ACA website for seniors is: http://www.healthcare.gov/foryou/seniors.  You can watch a video on what to expect from Medicare in 2011 or learn more about paying for long-term care.  Since the ACA was enacted, 57, 068 Medicare beneficiaries in Oklahoma have received a tax-free $250 dollar rebate check to help pay for medication and prescription drug benefits will continue improve for seniors over the next decade, eventually bridging the coverage gap or “donut hole.”  575,000 seniors in the state are now eligible for free preventative services, like mammograms and colonoscopies, and a free annual wellness check.  Medicare will not change drastically under the ACA, but it does provide substantial incentives to promote preventative care and wellness.

Consumer Reports, an independent non-profit organization, has two excellent free guides on how the ACA is changing the health-insurance marketplace.  Download an electronic copy of “Medicare: 6 things you need to know now,” by clicking here, or order hard copies through the mail by clicking here.  The six things you need to know now about Medicare:

  1. Drug discounts: Your prescription medicine may be more affordable.
  2. Free preventative care:  No need to put off some exams because of cost.
  3. Ceiling on Medicare Advantage:  Costs are limited if you stay in the network.
  4. Medicare Advantage benefits may shrink: Excess payments to private insurers are being reduced.
  5. Seniors with large incomes may pay more: Premiums for prescription drug coverage are now affected.
  6. New dates for changing plans: The open enrollment period is starting and ending earlier, beginning in 2011.

The AARP, a nonpartisan organization that helps people over 50 improve their lives, is an excellent resource for health care information.  Click here for their page dedicated to health care reform for news, information and advice.  This AARP report on how the recession continues to affect state programs for older individuals and adults with disabilities in Oklahoma, Weathering the Storm: The Impact of the Great Recession on Long-Term Services and Supports, is an excellent primer on the status of the social safety net for seniors in the state.  Continued adequate funding of senior health care and safety net programs are critical to ensuring that successive generations of Oklahomans are able to enter retirement with dignity and maintain a comfortable standard of living.

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