The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), signed into law by President Obama and upheld by the Supreme Court, is the most important piece of healthcare legislation since 1965. That’s when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. As with the origination of Medicare, most Americans have serious questions about how the new law will affect their healthcare and their budget.
ACA involves Medicare in several significant ways. While the law does not technically change Medicare, it adds a few new health benefits and forces significant cost controls and budget cuts. It is these controls and cuts that will force the changes that all seniors and other beneficiaries need to understand.
Obamacare for People with Medicare
If you have Medicare, or if you’re about to qualify for Medicare, chances are you have a lot of questions. We have created these specific pages to help you better understand how Obamacare and Medicare work together:
- Do I need a Medicare Supplement with Obamacare?
- Does Obamacare replace my Medicare Advantage Plan?
- Do I need to buy a Medicare Part D Plan with Obamacare?
- What does Obamacare do to my Medicare?
Regardless of your political views on ACA, it’s important to acknowledge that ACA — “Obamacare” — fundamentally restructures healthcare delivery in the USA, and will likely change the health insurance benefits for most Americans. What Medicare has been for seniors and the disabled, Obamacare will be to Americans without health insurance due to their economic situation. It’s a radical change.
Now that the debates and major battles over Obamacare are behind us, all Americans want to understand the impact the law will have on their lives. If you are confused by Obamacare and its bewildering complexities, you’re not alone. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 53 percent of Americans claim to be “confused” by the new healthcare system. Simply put, for most people, Obamacare remains as much a mystery today as it was when its 500 legislative provisions were drafted behind closed doors.
The core concept of Obamacare is quite simple. It attempts to extend to all Americans the protection and security seniors have enjoyed since 1965. Once full enacted, all Americans will have access to affordable healthcare. The law achieves this goal by ushering 37 million uninsured citizens into the Medicaid program or health insurance exchanges, where they will receive taxpayer subsidized insurance.
While we can all agree that healthcare for all Americans is a noble and worthy goal, there is strong disagreement over the cost burden. As the world leaders in healthcare technology, Americans love their healthcare, but it comes at a very high price. Per capita, we spend significantly more than any other developed nation. ACA has numerous provisions designed to curb our out-of-control healthcare costs.
At first glance, it might be difficult to see how Obamacare can reduce cost when it comes close to doubling the number of people covered by the Medicare and Medicaid programs. As reported by the Congressional Budget Office in July, 2012, Obamacare will cost about $2 trillion over its first decade (2014 through 2023). Many fear that the entitlement component of ACA will bankrupt the country in the future.
All Americans need to understand that the cost of Obamacare will be shouldered by employers, taxpayers, healthcare providers and seniors. It is hoped that the Medicare program will cough up $716 billion over the next ten years (2013-2022) through cuts and savings. These budget cuts are outlined for you in the following Obamacare in Pictures graphic:
While the majority of seniors are angry over the projected budget cuts, there is a glimmer of a bright side. ACA expands Medicare’s prescription drug coverage benefit (Part D) and preventative care services in a meaningful way. Possibly the best news of all for seniors is that the new law caps what insurers can charge for healthcare premiums based on age. For most seniors, these are small concessions for the punishing budget.
If you currently have Medicare benefits, Obamacare is probably a bitter pill for you to swallow. The bad news for seniors far outweighs the good news. The result of the spending cuts and the mass infusion of new Medicaid beneficiaries are expected to create widespread shortages in providers that accept Original Medicare patients. At the same time, the budget cuts for the Medicare Advantage program will reduce the availability of plans, as well as the benefits they provide.
If you are currently a Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) beneficiary you will see very few changes in the benefits you receive. One of the benefits the ACA brings to Medicaid is a lift on provider payment rates to Medicare levels (primary care doctors only). However, as noted above, the looming provider shortages could overwhelm the system to a point that the benefit is negated.
As a result of what the ACA means to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries now and in the future, MedicareWire will report news and provide helpful information about the healthcare law in its Obamacare blog.