The New Year in Health Care Reform: Good News and Bad for Older Americans
By Rachel Walden — January 5, 2011
The new, more Republican Congress is now in session, and we’re already seeing talk of repealing last year’s health care reform legislation. For now, older Americans can benefit from some of last year’s changes that are now becoming active, including:
- The effect of the “doughnut hole” in Medicare Part D coverage should be reduced through a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs in the coverage gap. Senate Democrats are focusing on this benefit as one that should not be repealed by the new House and are vowing to block any such repeal.
- Free preventive services, such as cancer screenings and annual wellness exams, will be available for seniors on Medicare.
Another expected benefit looks like it will be reversed:
- The New York Times reports that Medicare regulations are being revised “to delete references to end-of-life planning as part of the annual physical examinations covered under the new health care law, administration officials said Tuesday.” This is the provision which would have paid for the visits for Medicare recipients to talk to their physicians about their end-of-life wishes, which was distorted into political talk about “death panels.” The administration is citing a lack of public comment opportunity on the provision for its reversal.
As a medical provider in family practice, I celebrated many of the reforms cited in your post on behalf of my medicare patients AND elderly relatives. It now appears that this may have been premature. The political machinery in the U.S. appears happy to leave behind children and seniors. While I understand hard decisions need to be made to improve the financial stability of our nation, I feel different arenas should be targeted in cost cutting measures. And please don’t label end of life decisions “death panels”! How absurd.