Feeling confused by the new health care law? You are hardly alone. With all the political bickering, Mainers have heard too little about what the reforms will actually mean for them.
Regardless of how you felt about the process of passing national health care reform legislation, it is now law and it’s a safe bet that the new law will affect you. This may be especially true for older Mainers, including retirees and boomers.
Here are some of the things you should be aware of:
- If you are a senior with very high bills for medicine, you can look forward to savings—$250 if you fall into the coverage gap this year and even better discounts in the future.
- If you have any adult children who need coverage, you may keep them on your employer plan until they reach age 26.
- If you are considering long-term care planning, you will be given the choice of participating in a government insurance program that will provide benefits to help people with chronic illness stay in their homes.
For seniors who are particularly concerned about what the new health care law means for them, here’s what is not changing under health insurance reform: The law explicitly prohibits any cuts to seniors’ guaranteed Medicare benefits.
In fact, most seniors will see positive changes as a result of the new law. For instance, starting next year a new Medicare benefit will allow seniors to get annual wellness check-ups free of charge, along with free preventive services, such as screenings for cancer and diabetes. Consumers of private health insurance also will be able to get free health screenings as a result of the new law.
The new law will also help seniors who are paying thousands of dollars out of their own pocket for their medications because they’ve fallen into the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole.” This year, Mainers in the coverage gap will get a $250 rebate. Next year, those who hit the coverage gap will get a 50% discount on brand-name drugs, and a 7% discount on generics. Over the next 10 years, these discounts will continue to increase until the coverage gap is eliminated.
We know that most Mainers would prefer to remain in their homes as they age. The new health care law will help more seniors reach this goal in the future. States will get added financial support for providing home and community-based services. In addition, individuals will be able to participate in a voluntary insurance program designed to help people who develop chronic illness remain in their own homes—and out of nursing homes. This program, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) will collect premiums from individuals who chose to enroll either through payroll deductions or another centralized agency. If the time comes for long-term care, program participants will get a cash benefit to help them pay for services to help them stay in their homes.
AARP believes that everyone should find out what the new law means for their families. It’s understandable that this complex issue leaves you with questions. Now that health care reform has become law, it’s time for you to get the answers. Go to www.aarp.org/getthefacts to find out what you need to know about this new law.