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A Second Obama Term Brings Healthcare Reform for Seniors

The re-election of President Obama illuminated a country that is divided; not only on social issues, such as abortion and marriage rights, but on healthcare reform and federal deficit plans as well. GOP candidate Mitt Romney ran on a platform calling for the full repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Medicare reform. The President’s re-elections means that healthcare overhaul will move forward in all 50 states, including battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

The 13 states that waited to apply the Affordable Care Act in anticipation of Romney’s campaign now have until November 16 to provide plans on how to manage the new provisions. Governors who do not meet the deadline will nevertheless see the government create a more organized and competitive health insurance market for them, through the creation of exchanges.

A health insurance exchange can be either a government agency or a non-profit organization, and will serve those buying insurance individually as well as businesses with less than 100 employees. These state-based health insurance exchanges are a key component of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. The exchanges are expected to be up and running by 2014, at which time the government will provide subsidies to make coverage more affordable. Nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins emphasize the importance of the Affordable Care Act with respect to long-term care for the elderly, who rely on Medicaid for medical aid and services.

Insurance companies will be expected to offer coverage regardless of preexisting conditions, which means they will no longer be allowed to deny or charge more because of sickness. They will be expected to collect data and meet quality and reporting standards, as well as cover a percentage of enrollment costs.

Alan Weil, the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, adds that there are a few options for how states will develop the exchanges: they can do it on their own, share responsibility with the federal government through a partnership arrangement, or leave it entitled to the government to handle. Exchanges are expected to begin enrollment by the fall of 2013, less than one year away.

Currently, nearly 50 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare. President Obama intends to cut over $716 billion from Medicare spending over the next ten years, which will not impact Medicare eligibility or benefits. The President plans to eliminate wasteful spending within the healthcare system and insurance companies.

The Associated Press reported on the reality of President Obama’s Medicare shifts, which includes the increasing of monthly premiums for seniors making $85,000 or more and a slight increase in annual outpatient deductibles for baby boomers. President Obama also faces the challenge of raising the eligibility age for Medicare, a stance firmly held by Romney, from 65 to 67.

Congress will aid the President’s new provisions, with a predominant republican House of Representative and a democratic Senate. Republicans are expected to push for healthcare negotiations, such as delaying and reworking the expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor in favor of cutting the federal deficit. Medicaid serves 56 million Americans, and is an important source of medical service and aid for the elderly in nursing homes, low-income families, and the disabled. About 23% of those enrolled in Medicaid are elderly or disabled, and 7 in 10 nursing home residents depend on the program. The Affordable Care Act plans an expansion of Medicaid to cover 30 million more uninsured Americans.

Many states, including Illinois, California, and New York are seeking to obtain federal waivers to try to cut costs of long-term care. These waivers would give private managed-care organizations a set amount of money for a lifetime of care, from doctor visits to nursing home placements, in anticipation that better care will take place in less expensive home settings.

Nationally, 31.5% of Medicaid spending goes to long-term care for the elderly and disabled. Medicare and Medicaid services are trending carefully, and rightfully so. The fate of millions of seniors and their families are at risk. Nursing home abuse attorneys at Pintas & Mullins urge the public to become educated in this matter, and fight for the best interest of the elderly.