Regardless of where an individual stands on the recently passed healthcare reform bill, almost every Alabamian will be affected in some way, whether directly, or through a family member.
AARP has compiled some information on how the health care reform package will help Alabamians of every age, and how and when those benefits will begin. But, because of Alabama’s significant older population, a large portion of Alabama’s residents will be affected by those changes to programs for Alabamians 50 and older. According to recent estimates, 13.8% of the population is age 65 or older, and 19.0% is age 50-64.
Ray Warren, AARP Alabama State President said, “AARP made healthcare reform a priority because it is the one issue that touches older Americans more than any other. That is especially true in Alabama where more than a third of our population is 50 years old or older.
“Regardless of whether you supported the health care reform bill or not, you cannot argue with the benefits for Alabamians and their families,” Warren said.
Among the most important of these benefits, the health reform package will strengthen and improve the Medicare Program. Under the health insurance reform plan, the life of the Medicare Trust Fund will be extended by nearly a decade. Currently, 763,000 Alabamians depend on Medicare for health care.
The health reform package improves access to primary care doctors, and primary care doctors will receive bonuses for treating people covered by Medicare.
Beginning in 2010, preventive care, such as screenings for cancer and diabetes, is provided free of charge. You will no longer have to pay out of pocket for preventive care services.
The Health Reform Package will also help older Alabamians struggling with the high cost of prescription drugs. Today, people in Medicare spend an average of 30 percent of their incomes on out-of-pocket health costs – including premiums for supplemental coverage.
These costs are six times greater than for people with employer coverage. Skyrocketing drug costs are a particular problem for people in Medicare. In 2007, 28 % of the Medicare beneficiaries in Alabama fell into the Part D “doughnut hole,” or coverage gap, which meant that they had to pay the entire cost of their medication and their premiums.
The health care reform package closes the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole,” and Medicare beneficiaries who reach the doughnut hole in 2010 will receive a rebate of $250 to help pay for prescriptions. Beginning in 2011, Medicare beneficiaries who reach the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs.
The doughnut hole will be fully closed over the next 10 years under the plan by gradually reducing enrollees’ brand name and generic drug costs so that by 2020, enrollees will be responsible for 25% of their brand name and generic drug costs from the time they meet their deductible until they enter catastrophic coverage.
This could add up to savings of nearly $2,000 next year for Alabamians with high drug spending.