Health Care Reform

By Chelle Cordero

May 21, 2010 5 min read

President Barack Obama's health care reform plan has monopolized the airwaves, online social networks and Congress for the past year. Even though it's been passed, it will continue to dominate conversations, as millions of Americans learn how the new rules affect them.

Andrew Rubin, vice president for medical center clinical affairs and affiliates at NYU Langone Medical Center and host of "Health Care Connect!" on Sirius XM Radio, maintains that "death panels" are "a completely untrue rumor started long before any details on health care reform were ever released. There are no cuts in services for Medicare beneficiaries. In fact, certain screening preventive services that formerly were subject to copays and deductibles will no longer have any out-of-pocket expenses associated with the visits."

Rubin also says: "Medicare recipients will see a reduction over time in the amount of money they spend on drug costs as the infamous 'doughnut hole' gets closed. As many seniors know, the doughnut hole is the portion of drug expense not covered by insurance. Under health care reform, this hole gets gradually reduced over time."

Mike Campbell -- founder of Campbell Consulting Services LLC, which serves clients in the senior housing and care industry, and author of "When Mom and Dad Need Help" -- says the new law does take some steps to improve the lives of our growing senior population, including:

--Reducing the prescription Medicare doughnut hole for our seniors.

--Increased Medicare coverage for preventive services.

--The enactment of the CLASS Act, which helps seniors pay for long-term care services.

--The enactment of the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act.

--The enactment of the Elder Justice Act.

--The enactment of the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act.

--Federal grants to be provided for enhanced geriatric training.

--Encouraging doctors to coordinate care and improve quality.

--Bringing savings to Medicare by eliminating wasteful overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans.

Campbell adds, "Personal responsibility and private long-term care insurance must play a major role in order for America to survive the even more looming budget crisis that lies ahead with 78 million baby boomers entering retirement this year."

Emergency medicine physician Fred Jenkins sees positive results. "The recently passed health care legislation will dramatically increase the number of patients who have insurance, which means that the volume of non-reimbursed care in the emergency department should diminish," he says. "That change means hospitals can look to their emergency departments in more strategic ways -- as gateways to reimbursable admissions and ancillary services. It also means seniors with Medicare, who rely on emergency care in disproportionate numbers, can expect more hospitable, better-run emergency departments in this new era."

Not everyone agrees that the law does enough. "The new health care overhaul does many things, but one thing it overlooks is the relentless increase in medical expenses in recent years," says Richard Leader, president and chief investment officer of First Houston Capital. "According to a study just released by Fidelity Investments, a couple retiring this year will likely need an average of $250,000 just to cover medical expenses during retirement."

Based on the needs of two average 65-year-olds retiring this year with Medicare coverage, the Fidelity study was done before "Obamacare," as many call the overhaul, was passed into law, explains Leader. "This new law has little impact for retirees. It expands health care access primarily for people younger than 65." He advises retirees to keep saving and investing.

Rubin sums the issue up with this: "Overall, this reform, though expensive and complicated, provides a safety net for millions of Americans who do not have access to health care/health care insurance. Further, it protects millions more who are vulnerable to losing health care/health care insurance because they've lost their jobs, gotten sick, can no longer afford premiums, etc. Yes, that protection comes with individual mandates and taxes on wealthy Americans. No one likes mandates, and no one likes higher taxes. It was a trade-off that had to be made to pay for and reform the current broken system. There will be unintended mistakes in the legislation that will need to be fixed, but overall, it's a giant step forward for this country. It does not destroy the current health care system but rather is a first step in reforming something that could no longer be sustained."

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