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California seniors are healthcare reform's big winners

by Adrienne Verrilli, published

After months of some lawmakers making questionable statements about what health insurance reform meant for our nation's seniors - death panels, killing Medicare, etc. - a report that received virtually no attention found that seniors are actually the big winners from national health insurance reform. 

Of course, no American would know this as the media was and still is more interested in propping up the tea party movement and reporting on the politics of reform as opposed to informing the public of the actual content in health insurance reform itself.

In fact, earlier this month, the UC Berkeley School of Law, Center on Health, Economic and Family Security and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research issued a report How Would Health Insurance Reform Impact California Senior Citizens?  The report analyzed the impact of the Senate bill recently passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Obama, as well as the reconciliation bill to become law on Tuesday, March 30 would have on California seniors. 

The report found that seniors’ prescription drug benefits will increase, access to primary preventative health care services will improve, Medicare’s solvency will be better protected and long-term health care options will increase while protection for benefits will be greater. 

The following are the report’s specific findings:

    •    Prescription drug costs for seniors will decline by increasing the dollar amount that Medicare Part D pays for prescription drugs, providing seniors a $250 rebate in 2010 and eventually closing the “doughnut hole” altogether.  These revisions will save California seniors nearly $260 million.

    •    Seniors will have increased access to the doctors and surgeons they choose by providing a 10 percent bonus to doctors who treat Medicare patients and to surgeons if they practice in an area with a shortage of doctors.  These changes will help seniors in 42 California counties.  Seniors also will have better access to preventative care by eliminating co-payment for preventative services such as mammograms and prostate cancer screenings as well as diabetes and glaucoma screenings

    •    Health insurance reform puts Medicare on more stable footing by ensuring solvency over the next 16 years and creating an Independent Medical Advisory Board to advise Congress on how to keep Medicare solvent.  It will also crackdown on overpayment to health insurance companies that participate in Medicare Advantage.  Medicare Advantage is an alternative to Medicare where the federal government pays the insurance companies directly a set amount for each senior enrolled in the program.

    •    Health insurance reform creates more options for long-term care, including more funding for community-based services that help seniors and people with disabilities to find access to services.  The bill also provides dollars to help seniors relocate from expensive nursing homes to home and community-based services.  Currently there are 330,000 Californians in nursing homes.

    •    Seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medi-Cal (poor seniors) will receive all benefits available them.  There are more than one million California seniors that are eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal.  Health insurance reform will help better coordinate benefits for seniors who are eligible for both programs to ensure that seniors receive all the benefits available to them.

This sounds like a plan where grandma will actually live a longer, healthier life as opposed to facing a death panel.

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