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Obamacare expanding Medicare for seniors 

Carlotta Mohamed | 11/7/2013, 12:55 p.m.

Senior citizens over the age of 65 and on Medicare, Medicaid or employer group plans will now have access to preventative health care services—annual wellness exams, mammography, diabetes and other screenings—under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The new health law will cut Medicare by $716 billion and spend nearly that much trying to reform it. The money cut will be used to increase Medicare solvency, improve services and reduce premiums with a more effective program for patients.

The Medicare Part D coverage gap (also called the “donut hole”)—where seniors couldn’t afford to pay for their prescription drugs—is expected to be closed by 2020 and will change the cost of health care coverage for senior citizens. No one will be denied health care.

“Millions of seniors already have gotten a discount on their prescription medicines. Already, millions of families have actually received rebates from insurance companies that didn’t spend enough on their health care,” said President Barack Obama.

Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, oppose the law, claiming it is an unconstitutional mandate that raises taxes, according to a Time magazine report. Sen. Ted Cruz called Obamacare a “disaster” and “train wreck.”

In the midst of confusion over “myths versus facts” about Obamacare, people on Medicare weren’t sure what the law would provide for them. Medicare beneficiaries will still be able to see their current doctors and keep their Medicare insurance with new rights and protections.

“Medicare’s guaranteed benefits are protected in ways they hadn’t been protected in the past,” said Nicole Duritz, AARP’s vice president for health education and outreach, on usnews.com.

CLOSING THE

MEDICARE PART D GAP

The Medicare Part D coverage gap is described as a “donut hole,” where Medicare beneficiaries pay 100 percent of their prescription drug costs up to a certain amount. Now, seniors will get discounts to pay for their brand-name prescription drugs—47.5 percent of the price, according to Medicare.gov. The entire price (including the discount the drug company pays) will count as out-of-pocket costs, which will help people get out of the coverage gap they fall into. As the donut hole closes, the savings will eventually increase.

Newsguard.com reported that 6.6 million people on Medicare have already saved over $7 billion via the Affordable Care Act.

MEDICARE

ADVANTAGE REFORM

Starting in 2014, Medicare Advantage plans cannot spend more than 15 percent of their Medicare payment on administrative costs, insurance company profits and non-health care related items. These cost-cutting measures are estimated to bring in $1,000 in savings to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services per Advantage Plan member without reducing any benefits. This is expected to help decrease Medicare Part B insurance payments, especially for low-income seniors, according to ObamacareFacts.com.

MEDICARE

INCREASE AND TAXES

According to aarp.org, the official formula for determining Part B premiums was established by Congress decades ago. The standard premium amount for each year is based on the Medicare health care costs in the previous year, in which the government pays 75 percent of Part B costs and beneficiaries pay 25 percent. Obamacare does not affect this process in any way. But there is a 0.9 percent tax increase that high-income seniors will be required to pay for the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that took effect on January 2011.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare beneficiaries are expected to save on average about $4,200 over the next 10 years because of lower drug costs, free preventative services and reductions in growth of health spending.