Even in the era of declining television audiences, President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight is still the biggest audience he’ll have all year. Historically, seventh-year State of the Union speeches have a short shelf life. Every one of the five lame-duck presidents (that is, presidents constitutionally barred from running again — Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama) have all had opposition congresses, making the prospects for passing major parts of the president’s agenda slim to none. But tonight Obama will certainly try to use his speech to frame the debates for the next two years and set the table for the 2016 election. I wanted to take this opportunity to recap, review and remind everyone how Obama Health Care Reform affects and affected the senior citizens of this country.
If you’re a senior, then you probably rely on Medicare to help with your high health care bills. From doctor’s appointments to prescription medications to flu shots, it can take the budget of a small third world country to pay for the hospital bills that unfortunately show up in your mail.
- The coordination of care between doctors and the overall quality of care improved so that you will be less likely to have to deal with the same problem repeatedly. The hope was that there will be fewer hospital readmissions, which treat a reoccurring health problem.
- In 2011, if you hit the prescription drug “donut hole,” you got a 50% discount on brand-name drugs and a 20% discount on generic drugs while you are in the coverage gap. Each following year, you will pay less for your prescription drugs in the “donut hole” until there’s complete coverage by the year 2020. Between now and then, you will get continuous Medicare coverage for your prescription drugs.
- Starting back in 2014, the health care law offers additional protections for Medicare Advantage plan members by taking strong steps that limit the amount these plans spend on administrative costs, insurance company profits, and things other than health care.
- Your Medicare benefits did not change and will be protected under the ADA.
- More preventive care is covered. Medicare now covers yearly wellness visits and more preventive care. This includes cancer, cholesterol and diabetes screenings, immunizations, diet counseling, and more.
- The health care law fights fraud, scams and waste that take money from the Medicare program. The law strengthens Medicare by adding more resources to catch those who fraudulently bill Medicare.
- The Community First Choice Option is now available for states to add to their Medicaid programs. This option provides benefits to Medicaid-eligible individuals for community-based care instead of placement in a nursing home, which means more options for low-income seniors to have home health care.
- The State Balancing Incentive Program, which will be active until October 2015, provides increased federal funds to qualifying states that offer Medicaid benefits to disabled individuals seeking long-term care services at home instead of in a nursing home. In order to be eligible, a state must spend less than 50% of its total Medicaid expenditures for at-home or community-based long-term care services and supports. The state must also agree to use the additional federal funds to provide new or expanded non-institutionally-based long-term care services.
- The Independence at Home demonstration program is currently a test program that provides Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions the opportunity to receive primary care services at home. This is intended to reduce costs associated with emergency room visits, hospital readmissions, and generally improve the efficiency of care.
The bottom line is that if you have Medicare, the new health reform laws that went into affect under Obama’s watch should not have affected you. Your benefits and coverage should not have changed. Lets pay close attention to our President’s State of the Union Address tonight and see if anything is mentioned around health care, though, with so many other issues in the news today don’t expect too much. Let us know how Health Care reform has affected you personally in the comments section.