Of all the lies and confusion that still surround the 2010 health reform law, perhaps the greatest is that the Affordable Care Act, or as some call it “ObamaCare,” is bad for seniors.
This is just plain false. The truth is the new law is helping millions of retirees better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription. In Arizona, the 65,729 seniors with the highest drug costs have already saved an average of $562 on their prescriptions. In Arizona, 637,233 seniors have received free, life-saving tests for chronic diseases.
The new law strengthens the Medicare Trust Fund by eliminating taxpayer overpayments to insurance companies that provide some Medicare benefits.
Unfortunately the law’s new benefits for seniors are being threatened by what I call the “three R’s” – Repeal, Romney, and Ryan.
The effort to repeal this law is being fueled by the big insurers and other corporations who have long profited handsomely at our expense. They are targeting seniors – the highest turnout voting bloc – with shameless scare tactics and misinformation. So next time your local politician talks repeal, ask them what exactly do they want to take away from us – the lower prescription drug costs? The free annual exams and screenings for diabetes and cancer?
Both presidential candidate Mitt Romney and U.S. House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), not only want to repeal these new benefits, but also replace traditional Medicare with a voucher program. Under this plan, seniors would receive a small voucher, or coupon, to purchase coverage in the expensive, unfair private insurance market. Unlike Mitt Romney, who on his recent 65th birthday declined Medicare in favor of private coverage, those who are not rich need affordable Medicare to stay healthy.
Medicare is a core part of the American middle class. It is one of our nation’s greatest success stories, rooted in shared American values of hard work and fiscal responsibility. For decades, a worker sets aside a small portion of each paycheck to Medicare for the peace of mind of knowing they will have a healthy, secure retirement. The new law strengthens Medicare and protects the middle class from the terrible greed and unfairness of the private health insurance industry. Repealing this law weakens Medicare and weakens the middle class.
But seniors care about more than just themselves. We are happy that the new health law allows our grandchildren to stay on their parents insurance until age 26, giving them time to land a job with benefits. We are happy that our children’s health is no longer hostage to insurance companies discriminating against pre-existing conditions or finding loopholes to cancel coverage when they need it the most. Middle class families of all ages need the security of knowing they won’t go bankrupt when someone gets sick.
While the new law makes historic gains for seniors, I worry that with all the fear, misinformation, and name-calling in today’s political climate, not enough seniors know how this law helps them. We cannot allow these important gains for seniors to fall victim to fear and ignorance. The term “Obamacare” has been thrown around as a negative thing, but when you look at the facts surrounding the new law, you can see that Obama cares for seniors.
To protect the health of current and future retirees, we must help our friends and neighbors separate fact from fiction in this new law.
Doug Hart is the President of the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans. For more information, contact AZRetiredAmericans@gmail.com