Right now, too many people between the ages of 50 to 64 are priced out of affordable health coverage – and seniors can’t afford their prescription drugs.
AARP recently joined a broad-based group of Massachusetts providers, insurers, consumer advocates, business, health care and faith leaders to send a message to Congress: We need national health reform to help Massachusetts.
“We should all be proud of what has been accomplished in Massachusetts on health care reform, but for the sake of all Americans, there is much more work to be done,” said Deborah Banda, AARP Massachusetts state director. “We have come too far to give up, and that’s a message Congress must hear.”
Falling in the Hole
Millions of seniors are overwhelmed by thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses — often going without the medicine they desperately need because they fall into the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole”.
This year alone, more than 300,000 Bay State seniors face $3,610 in added costs because they may fall into the gap in coverage.
That’s the case for Salem resident Patricia Liberti, 59, who suffers from coronary artery disease. In 2008, Liberti and her husband spent upwards of $15,000 of personal savings on out of pocket on health care costs. Because of her chronic illness, Liberti has reached the Medicare coverage gap repeatedly. “Sooner or later, there won’t be any savings left.”
In addition to closing the Medicare doughnut hole, AARP is fighting for health reform to stop insurance companies from using your health or age as a reason to deny coverage.
These companies should not be allowed to:
- use age as an excuse to charge unaffordable premiums,
- deny coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, or
- drop coverage if you get sick.
Sue Rummel of Danvers, 62, knows all too well how expensive health insurance can be for the 50-64 age group. Rummel, who owns a small custom drapery business, recently had to make the difficult decision to downgrade to a health plan with a lower premium, higher deductible and less coverage. “I had no choice, I just couldn’t afford it,” she said. “Every time I think about how much it is costing me to stay insured, I feel like I’m being hit in the face.”
AARP believes national health reform will be good for older Massachusetts residents because it will:
- stop insurance companies from denying affordable care based on age or pre-existing conditions;
- help provide the long term care services and supports that people need to remain in their homes as they age, and out of more expensive care;
- protect guaranteed Medicare benefits; and,
- lower drug costs for seniors by closing the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole.
Avoiding the Gap
The AARP Doughnut Hole Calculator is a free online resource designed to help you find out how long your coverage will last before you fall into the doughnut hole. You’ll also receive a list of less expensive, but equally effective medications that you can discuss with your doctor.
To stay up to date about AARP’s health reform priorities, check back with AARP.org/ma.