On a call regarding health care reform and Medicare beneficiaries today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathlene Sebelius and staff from both the White House Office of Health Reform and White House Office of Public Engagement specifically asked all beneficiaries and Medicare advocates to help end the myths that health reform hurts Medicare. In fact, health reform strengthens Medicare in several key ways. For instance, several Medicare provisions in the newly introduced House bill, Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) are that it:
- Immediately begins reducing out-of-pocket costs in the Part D coverage gap, or donut hole by $500 in 2010 and eliminates the gap altogether by 2019 (versus 2024 in the earlier version of the House bill).
- Allows the government and Part D plans to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
- Improves quality of care and, through a number of payment method changes, reduces unnecessary hospital admissions and re-admissions.
- Emphasizes prevention and wellness by eliminating any deductible or copayment amounts for Medicare-covered preventive services.
- Increases coordination of care for beneficiaries with chronic conditions by changing how Medicare reimburses for certain services.
- Provides affordable insurance coverage options for people 55-64. Many people without good coverage during this time period may postpone getting needed treatment until they have Medicare at age 65. This results in 1) them having poorer health and more serious health conditions and 2) Medicare having higher expenditures. Making sure this pre-Medicare population has health coverage will actually help lower Medicare costs.
- Extends Medicare’s long-term solvency by at least 5 years.
Secretary Sebelius and staff reiterated President Obama’s promise that Medicare is a sacred trust and they fully intend to keep and strengthen that trust. In an effort to support this promise, they asked assistance in ending the myth that health reform is bad for Medicare. One challenge continues to be that several Medicare Advantage plans are sending out misleading information to plan enrollees that health reform will cut benefits. They don’t explain that health reform will cut the overpayment of subsidies to MA plan sponsors, NOT Medicare benefits themselves. As a result if this misleading information, many beneficiaries erroneously believe health reform will hurt their Medicare and have opposed reform legislation.
One easy resource White House staff suggest to share with people who have been misinformed is Obama’s 4-minute video on health reform. The video is at WhiteHouse.gov.
I’ll also be posting a newsletter article next week with many more resources and good articles to share with people on health reform facts and how it affects Medicare beneficiaries and strengthens the Medicare program.