Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Health Care Reform and Medicare

OK, folks, I'm gonna try and tackle health care reform, but only as it will affect Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries (sorry, everyone else).

First, let me tell you it's kind of hard to find objective, unbiased information. What I know is that almost everyone has a very strong opinion about this topic, but my intent here today is just to state what changes we can expect. It's too soon to know how things will end up, and with anything of this scale, there are sure to be unintended consequences, good and bad.

Most of this information is taken from the website www.healthreform.gov.

  • Subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans will be reduced. Some years ago, in an effort to move more Medicare beneficiaries into Advantage plans, Medicare paid these private insurance companies higher rates to offer plans. This idea never really took off in Texas; Secure Horizons is still the largest and most well-known Advantage plan in North Texas. My suspicion is that reducing these subsidies will result in some of the smaller plans going away. Since we don't have that many smaller plans in North Texas, there may not be much effect, but who knows?
  • Closing the doughnut hole. If you have Medicare D, you probably know about the doughnut hole. This will be phased out over several years, and in the meantime, beneficiaries will get a 50% discount on brand name medications while they are in the doughnut hole.
  • Free preventative services. Deductibles and co-payments will be eliminated on preventative services like colonoscopies. This will hopefully encourage beneficiaries to use these services, therefore allowing problems to be identified early, when they are treatable.
This is just a start. I will continue to look for information and share it as I find it.

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