Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
Akiko Takano
Deputy Director of Communications
212-204-6214

January 18, 2011

Repeal of Affordable Care Act Would Eliminate Coverage Improvements for People with Medicare

-- Consumer Group Responds to Affordable Care Act Repeal Efforts --

New York, NY—A review of consumer cases handled by the Medicare Rights Center demonstrates that people with Medicare will be harmed by the repeal of health care reform as proposed in H.R. 2, which was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this month. The bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety, thereby eliminating a variety of coverage improvements for older adults and people with disabilities, such as:

H.R. 2 would also threaten the fiscal future of Medicare and add to the federal deficit.

“Our clients and people with Medicare simply cannot afford a repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “Their health and financial security are being jeopardized.”

First, the ACA closes the coverage gap, or doughnut hole, in the Medicare prescription drug benefit. “For the past five years, the doughnut hole has plagued many people with Medicare, especially those in poor health and with multiple conditions,” said Baker. “Repeal would return us to the days when people with Medicare were forced to put their financial stability at risk to access medically necessary drugs, split or share pills, or forgo medications altogether.”

Since the advent of the Part D drug benefit in 2006, the Medicare Rights Center has handled hundreds of calls from clients who have entered the doughnut hole. Although this is a small fraction of the millions of individuals who reach the doughnut hole each year, their stories spotlight the issue. In 2010, individuals in the doughnut hole were eligible to receive a $250 rebate on drug costs. This year, they will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, so long as the ACA remains intact.

The ACA also allows for the provision of new or expanded preventive services under Medicare. In addition to providing annual wellness exams and prevention plans to people with Medicare, the ACA eliminates consumer cost-sharing for many Medicare-covered services recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, like mammographies, colonoscopies and osteoporosis screenings. This increased access to affordable preventive services will improve Americans’ health and could reduce long-term costs to the health care system.

In addition to these improvements, health reform improves coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and those with disabilities who do not yet qualify for Medicare. Americans under 65 with Social Security Disability Insurance have to wait two years before they are eligible for Medicare coverage. In many cases, these individuals and any other individual who is uninsured and has a pre-existing condition, can now join states’ high-risk pools created by the ACA and receive immediate insurance coverage while they wait for Medicare. Most importantly, in 2014, they will have access to even more insurance options through plans offered on state-based health exchanges and expanded Medicaid. This means that people in the two-year waiting period, one of the populations most in need of affordable, high-quality care, will now be able to access coverage.

Finally, the ACA works strategically to keep the Medicare trust fund solvent while preserving the core benefits of the program. Health reform will extend the Medicare trust fund by 12 years (from 2017 to 2029), and reduce the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over ten years.

“Preserving the ACA is preserving Medicare. We must set politics aside and put the well-being of people with Medicare first,” said Baker. “By repealing health reform, H.R. 2 not only takes away benefits that people with Medicare desperately need and have already started to use, but it also weakens the fiscal strength of Medicare and adds to the federal deficit. That is not a good prescription for people with Medicare or for any American.”

 

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

 

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