Senior citizens have been vocal participants in the ongoing debate to pass health care legislation in the United States. Older Americans represent a sector of the economy hit hard by the economic crisis. Many have seen their retirement savings evaporate and are faced daily with the high cost of prescription drugs and supplementary insurance policies while living on a fixed income. For many, the choice comes down to eating, or paying for their medications and coverage.
More dollars are spent annually in the United States per person on health care than in any other nation, with medical debt underlying 62% of all personal bankruptcies. That fact is particularly frightening to senior citizens who could be facing long years in care facilities not of a quality of their choosing or in being a "burden" to their children and grandchildren.
The Obama administration claims that its plan for health care reform in the United States will:
- Make insurance affordable by reducing premium costs and putting coverage within reach of the 31 million Americans who currently cannot afford the expense.
- Create a competitive health insurance market.
- Establish accountability in health care by preventing denial of care based on pre-existing conditions while curtailing industry abuses.
- Reduce the federal deficit by $100 billion over the next decade by cutting spending and curtailing waste, abuses, and fraud.
What many older Americans hear, however, and what they are being told by opponents of the legislation, is:
- Medicare will be cut forcing me to buy new and more expensive insurance to fill the gap.
- Discussion of “end of life” options is code for “death panels.”
- My choices are being taken away by federal mandate.
While the overall debate has grown so complex as to fill volumes, seniors seeking to understand what is being discussed and what will or will not become law need to focus on:
- The rules for prescription pricing and reimbursement.
- Changes to Medicare and Medicaid provisions.
- Programs to assist older Americans to live at home with assistance rather than to be forced into long-term care facilities.
- Changes in pre-existing condition exclusions.
No matter what comes out of Congress for the president’s signature, most senior citizens will need to continue to carry coverage to fill gaps in their Medicare benefits. Since those gaps will likely change, this is a situation seniors will need to monitor closely in case alterations to their existing policies are required.
Above all, do not listen to the “word on the street.” Get factual, documented information from reputable sources and avail yourself of free quotes and online insurance research data to make the best choices that dovetail with any new laws passed while guaranteeing that your health coverage is and will remain, comprehensive.