Five Ways Seniors Benefit from the Affordable Care Act

By David Virden on January 22, 2014

There’s been a lot of confusion regarding the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” So what’s really in it and what does it mean for seniors? As it turns out, a lot of what’s in the act is beneficial to seniors. Here’s just a few:

Expands Medicare Benefits

Under the ACA, Medicare benefits are expanding and costs are going down. It is estimated that Medicare beneficiaries will save, on average, about $4,200 over the next 10 years due to lower drug costs, free preventive services and reductions in the growth of health spending. Since passage of the ACA in 2010, more than 7.3 million people with Medicare saved over $8.9 billion on prescription drugs.

Better Preventive Care

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Medicare beneficiaries are eligible to receive many preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs. These include flu shots and screenings for cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Seniors can also get a free annual wellness visit, allowing them to discuss any health care issues of concern. In the first six months of 2013, 16.5 million people with traditional Medicare took advantage of at least one free preventive service.

Lower Costs for Prescription Drugs

If you have prescription drug coverage through Medicare, then you know about the “doughnut hole” – a gap in coverage that made it difficult to afford medications. Basically, Medicare provided assistance for paying for medications up to a certain dollar amount. After that, you were on your own until you reached another dollar amount – this gap was known as the doughnut hole. The ACA closes the doughnut hole over the next 10 years and provides financial help until the gap is fully closed.

Stronger Provision to Fight Medicare Fraud

No one really knows how much taxpayers lose each to Medicare fraud, but experts estimate that in 2010, Medicare and Medicaid together made $65 billion in improper payments, and that number rose to $98 billion in 2011. Medicare fraud hurts seniors, because it often results in substandard medical treatment, and the additional costs can mean that the patient’s Medicare allotment is used up. The ACA contains a $350 million investment to fight fraud as well as provisions that will attack those who defraud the system. Seniors can help in this fight by checking their Medicare statement to make certain they received the services listed and by never giving their Medicare number to someone who calls on the phone or comes by your home.

Safeguards the Medicare Trust Fund

The Medicare Trust Fund is a major source of funding for Medicare. Before the ACA, many felt the fund would go bankrupt. However, In August 2010, the fund’s outlook had substantially improved due to new regulations in the ACA. Because of the legislation’s commitment to reduce waste, abuse, and billing errors, the fund is projected to remain solvent until 2029. That’s a 12-year extension from previous estimates.