A lot can be said about the health care reform that was signed into law last March, but one thing that cannot be said is that is simple and easy to interpret. Most of what we hear about the new bill is second hand and filtered by the media. It comes as no surprise, then, that earlier this summer the National Council on Aging reported that seniors are uninformed about the specific provisions of the new law. While the breadth and scope of the reform bill is quite vast, there are a few things worth mentioning that could settle some of senior’s uncertainty about the legislation.
First of all, some seniors may have already received a $250 check in the mail as a result of the health care reform bill. This check was to partially compensate seniors who fell within the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage known as the “doughnut hole.” While this $250 may have been only a small portion of prescription drug costs for any given Medicare member, it is only the first phase of closing the coverage gap. By 2020, the health care reform bill will have closed the doughnut hole completely.
Secondly, the health care reform bill created a program that is going by the name of CLASS. CLASS is the first public long-term health care insurance program, and it will likely begin to phase in sometime in 2011. As it now stands, long-term health care insurance is perhaps one of the more difficult types of insurance to obtain. CLASS makes long-term care insurance more accessible to everybody, and although it will probably not have a significant impact on today’s generation of seniors, we should expect to see more and more people participate in the program as it begins to develop.
Lastly, we should discuss one thing that won’t change much under the health care reform bill. Seniors who participate in Medicaid/ALTCS have questioned whether the new law will affect their long-term care coverage. ALTCS/Medicaid members need not worry about the reform bill taking away their coverage. While the legislation makes a sweeping reform of health care, it doesn’t specifically target recipients of long-term care coverage under Medicaid. We don’t expect to see any immediate changes to ALTCS eligibility requirements, and those who may require long-term care can still engage in ALTCS/Medicaid planning to help facilitate Medicaid eligibility.