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by Kathleen Sebelius, AARP Bulletin, April 21, 2010
One of our most important missions at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when it comes to implementing the Affordable Care Act is to be a resource for you. That’s why we’re doing weekly live web chats on our website and posting answers to our most frequently asked questions every day.
I encourage you to join our online Q&A on Thursday, April 22, when health experts from HHS will join AARP President Jennie Chin Hansen to answer your questions about what reform means for you and your family.
You can send us your questions to Healthreform@hhs.gov, and tune in Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at www.hhs.gov/live to watch it live. You can also send us your questions live during the chat via Twitter to @HHSGov.
We’re glad Jennie could join us because some of the biggest benefits from this new law will be for older Americans. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about the immediate benefits that will kick in this year for seniors, including a new Early Retiree Reinsurance program starting in June that will help many older Americans keep their health insurance when they retire.
Another important benefit that kicks in this year provides relief for seniors who have fallen into the Medicare Part D prescription drug doughnut hole.
Starting June 15, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will begin mailing out checks to those who fall into the coverage gap.
The new law also protects and strengthens Medicare by helping to eliminate waste and fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies. And did you know that preventive care will be available to Medicare beneficiaries at no cost starting next year?
Those are just a few benefits you will see in the months ahead. Over time, reform will do even more to strengthen Medicare. Combined with other important changes, reform will extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by more than nine years. This will provide security to current Medicare enrollees—and their children—by ensuring that Medicare will be there when they need it.
And there’s more to protect you, your children and your grandchildren. Within six months, it will become illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions. Families whose children have cancer or diabetes will go from few or no insurance choices to the full range of options healthy families enjoy. For uninsured individuals with preexisting conditions, there will be a new, temporary high-risk insurance pool.
We’ve even be able to get some important things done ahead of schedule. The Affordable Care Act allows adult children to stay on their parents insurance until age 26 starting in September. We’re pleased to announce that we have been working with some of the nation’s leading insurers to voluntarily begin that policy right now. You can read more about this effort here.
This new law strengthens the health care programs that work, like Medicare, and changes the parts of the health system that haven’t been working for the American people. It is designed to put the American people back in control of their own health care and help ensure everyone has access to high-quality care without having to pay sky-high costs.
As we begin to implement this law, my job is to build on the foundation of reforms we have already achieved and ensure the American people have the information they need to get the care they deserve.
AARP is a terrific source of information for its members and one of the nation’s top advocacy groups. I am delighted to be working with AARP leaders and members to get the facts out about the new law.
I look forward to your questions and your active involvement in the days and weeks ahead. Hope you can all tune into our web chat this week at www.hhs.gov/live.
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