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Confusion Remains Over Health Care Reform

In travels around the state the past year and a half, AARP Michigan has talked to hundreds of members and others about the national health care law, community by community, from Detroit to Marquette, from Grand Rapids to Saginaw.

Andy Farmer, Associate State Director for Health and Supportive Services at AARP Michigan says he has found many people don’t know what really is in the law. They end up parroting what they’ve heard on the radio, on TV, on the Internet and elsewhere.

“It becomes its own kind of phenomenon as a story,” Farmer said. “It’s played up in the media as a big controversial issue. But what I’ve found over and over again in our community conversations is people saying, ‘Look, we know there’s a lot of craziness about this issue, we’ve heard about the death panels, we’ve heard about the big government takeover, we just don’t see how that can be true. Just stand in front of us and tell us what’s in the law.’”

Here’s what Farmer tells Michiganians on the listening tour about the major provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA):

  • Medicare is strengthened and enhanced in important ways. The Medicare Trust Fund gains 12 years of solvency according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
  • Affordable access to healthcare coverage is extended to 32 million people by raising Medicaid eligibility to 133% of the federal poverty level. Also, national markets of private health insurance plans – called exchanges – are created in 2014. The new private exchange markets provide many new consumer protections and price controls.
  • Community-based long-term care is expanded by opening up alternatives to nursing home care so more people can stay in their own homes.
  • Long-term rates of growth in federal spending are reduced by a net $150 billion by 2020 (even after some $950 billion in start-up investing) and then those savings mushroom to $1.2 trillion by 2030. Both are CBO projections.

What are the major issues not addressed at all by the PPACA?

Physician Payment – Doctor reimbursement under Medicare has not been addressed in a comprehensive way for over 15 years. Each year Congress must vote to delay implementing its own doctor reimbursement formula to avoid massive pay cuts to doctors. Last month, following a major push by AARP, Congress again voted to avert payment cuts to doctors that would have exacerbated access problems for seniors. AARP is working toward a long-term solution.

The current health insurance market is still ending coverage for tens of millions of Americans, discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, or pricing insurance out of reach. Come 2014, health plans will be prohibited from excluding individuals based on a pre-existing condition.

AARP Michigan will continue to talk to people across the state about this law in 2011 in an attempt to clarify its intent, keep people focused on what still needs to be reformed in health care, and to address citizens’ concerns about the law’s impact on their lives, Farmer said.

People also can get information about the national health care reform law online.

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