Monday, October 18, 2010

Health care reform: What it means now and later for 60-somethings

Taking on the health care reform bill in the midst of an election season may be crazy but there are several aspects of the bill passed by Congress last March that have an impact on seniors including 60 & Single women, right now. Three things jump out.

- Seniors 55 and older who have lost their jobs through lay off or early retirement are eligible to purchase continuing health insurance coverage through their former employer. That item became effective in September.
- Medicare open enrollment is coming up next month. That means that seniors should check up on their existing coverage especially if they are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan through a private insurance company. That's because insurance providers are waking up to changes in the program that will make it more expensive for them. Seniors could see their plans changed or eliminated.
- Medicare patients whose prescription drug expenses reach the so-called "doughnut hole" will start to see that gap in cost coverage begin to shrink. That's good news for those with high drug bills.
Over the long-term
There are many aspects to the sweeping health care reform bill that don't kick in for three to six years. And there are items in the bill that may face modification from a Congress reacting to some of the bill's mandates. Insurance companies already are scrambling to figure out what some of those future mandates will cost. In the short- term the news is not good. Health care insurance costs are going up for employers and their employees by as much as 10 percent in the coming year, say the experts.
A key part of the bill calls for an reduction in Medicare program costs of $400 million. About $134 million is expected to be pulled out of the Medicare Advantage program. So it is important that seniors stay on top of their coverage plans from year to year starting with this year's open enrollment period from Nov. 15-Dec.31.
Doing your homework
After looking into all this, it seems to me that everyone needs to do their home work on this bill....figure out what they like about the bill and what they think needs to be changed. Any one who has spent time covering the health care industry as I have for 25 years knows that reform is necessary. Our health care costs have been going up by 8 percent a year. Our system is rewarding more care not better care. Without reform our economy will suffer, hospitals will go broke and more Americans will be left without health insurance coverage of any kind. The current system where people lose their jobs and end up going to emergency rooms doesn't work.
There are plenty of Web sites that summarize the bill. The Wall Street Journal has written several good reports on aspects of the bill. Consumers must understand what's at stake and who is being affected by this bill.  Helpful Web sites:
Kaiser Family Foundation -
Medicare plan comparison -
Legal aspects of health care -
Basic federal health care program facts -

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