Repeal and Seniors

National Public Radio (NPR)  ran a lengthy story over the weekend that focused on what a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could mean for seniors. That’s of particular interest here in Arizona where we have a robust senior population……roughly two million people ages 55 and over call our state home.

The NPR report looked at three areas in particular:

  • Prescription Drugs,
  • Medicaid, and
  • Limiting the Cost of Insurance Premiums for Older Adults

The part on prescription drugs focused on a gap in insurance coverage known as the doughnut hole. That’s where Medicare stops paying part of the cost of drugs, and seniors have to buy them at full price. NPR wrote, “The ACA has been closing the doughnut hole coverage gap, but it’s unknown if this program would be maintained in a Republican plan that replaces the ACA.”

Forbes Magazine recently ran the headline, “Repealing and Replacing Obamacare: Whatever You Do, Preserve Medicare Part D And Fill The Doughnut Hole.” That’s because many people believe the doughnut hole often forces seniors to choose between the prescription drugs they need and buying food or paying rent.

The NPR story also looked at what a repeal could mean for Medicaid.

Medicaid is commonly thought of as the program that provides health care for the poor. But it also pays for long-term care for a lot of older people, including the majority of nursing home residents. One idea in some of the Republican proposals for replacing the Affordable Care Act is to turn Medicaid from a guaranteed benefit into a block grant to states. States would get a fixed amount of money from the federal government, and could make their own decisions on how to spend it. Critics fear this could do away with many protections that federal law currently provides for vulnerable older people. They also worry about what might happen in an economic downturn, when the demand for Medicaid goes up, but the amount of federal money allocated for it stays the same.

As for limiting the cost of insurance premiums for older adults, a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund found that if ACA caps are removed and older Americans were charged five times more for insurance than younger people (it is currently capped at 3x), about 400,000 people would no longer be able to afford to buy health insurance.

Regardless of where you stand on the idea of repealing the ACA, we’d love to hear what you think about how changes may affect the millions of older adults living in our state. Should Arizona seniors worry about these examples or do you believe it’s more hype than substance?  Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues making headlines is another way we are working toward our goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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