There’s been plenty of talk about the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act, yet many North Carolina seniors may be unaware of what it specifically means to their health care.
The law, which some refer to as Obamacare, doesn’t affect seniors when it comes to direct care because they are already covered under Medicare. However, the law does impact Medicare by reducing the coverage gap for prescription drug coverage and eliminating abuse, fraud and waste within the system. The so-called doughnut hole in prescription costs (Medicare Part D) should continue to shrink and be eliminated by 2020.
By doing these things, the Medicare program should be strengthened and the life of the program extended by nearly a decade.
Seniors have an opportunity to get in front of diseases by taking advantage of annual wellness checkups that could allow doctors to find and treat problems sooner rather than later. In the past, seniors had to pay deductibles, copayments and other cost-sharing for preventive care in Medicare.
In the first 11 months of 2013, three-fourths of Original Medicare Part B enrollees in North Carolina received all free services, while 153,732 participated in annual wellness screenings.
Such screenings, in some cases, allow seniors also avoid unnecessary visits to the hospital that could lead to health care-acquired infections.
The law puts Medicare Advantage plan payments more in line with the costs for the Medicare program.
The law also creates incentives for medical caregivers to improve quality and enrollee satisfaction.
A voluntary long-term care insurance program provides a cash benefit to help seniors and people with disabilities obtain services and supports that will help them to remain in their communities.
Charlotte seniors also receive greater protection through portions of the law meant to address elder neglect and exploitation. The ACA provides for background checks for employees in nursing homes and requires the immediate reporting of suspected crimes to police. The law provides incentives for individuals to train and seek employment at such facilities.
While the law isn’t perfect, it does provide some benefits that will hopefully extend the life of Medicare and result in healthier lives.