The Selling of Health Care Reform (Obamacare)by Denise Early on Dec. 03, 2011, under Health
On Wednesday of this week (November 30th) the Arizona AARP held a town hall meeting in Tucson to talk about the Affordable Care Act. About 100 people heard a representative from the Department of Health and Human Services talk about a long list of things that are in the Affordable Care Act.
The attendees were overwhelmingly seniors who expected the meeting to be focused on Medicare, since the advertisement for the event said it would be “a community conversation about new changes to your Medicare benefits”. But Medicare and Part D drug coverage made up a small part of the presentation.
The speaker, Eric Alborg talked about health insurance exchanges that will be set up in each state so people can go on-line and sign up for coverage. But he did not make it clear that these exchanges do not apply to people on Medicare. They are for people under 65 or not on Medicare. Medicare is a health insurance program.
Mr. Alborg did talk about the Part D donut hole (coverage gap) and how it is being phased out over the next several years. He explained that anyone who goes into the donut hole in 2011 gets a 50% discount on their brand drugs. This topic got the audience involved as many people wanted to talk about their own experience with their drug coverage and Medicare.
One lady said her expensive inhaler put her in the donut hole, and she is happy to get a discount on the full cost. However, she said the retail cost of her inhaler had been raised by 50% in the last year, which meant her 50% discount wasn’t such a good deal.
A man said his prescription is being moved from tier 2 to tier 3 by his Part D plan in 2012. That will raise his co-pay from $45 this year to $95 next year.
The Health and Human Services representative was not prepared to talk about these kinds of details, and after the presentation it was clear that many of the seniors wanted to tell him about their problems with Medicare and Part D and were asking for some help. Mr. Alborg told a few of these folks that he would look into their issue, but he is a policy expert and not a problem-solver.
I was pleased to see a crowd of people exposed to the many good things I see in the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) such as:
Insurance companies will have to accept everyone for coverage. Of course, this comes with the mandate that everyone get health insurance, if they don’t already have it through their employer. (begins in 2014)
Children up to age 26 can be kept on their parent’s employer health insurance. (already in effect)
Insurance companies must offer insurance to children with pre-existing conditions (in small group plans). (already in effect)
Insurance companies can no longer cancel an individual insurance policy when a person gets sick. (already in effect)
Lifetime benefits limits for health insurance plans are being phased out. (already in effect)
Insurance policies must cover preventive care. (already in effect for policies written after September 2010))
Companies with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance to their workers. (2014)
Small companies will get tax credits for paying for some of their employees’ health insurance premiums. (already in effect)
Individuals who must buy their own health insurance will receive tax credits to help them pay their premiums. (2014)