The debate on healthcare reform will not die even now that the new measure has been signed into law. Despite the fact that a number of state attorneys general, including South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, are filing a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the law and Republican opposition is talking about repealing the law, AARP gives the new law a hardy thumbs up. AARP South Carolina Director Jane Wiley says a key component of the healthcare reform is that people under Medicare will have access to preventive services without cost.
“Next year all Medicare preventive services, such as screening for colon, prostate, and breast cancer, will be free. Also starting next year, annual wellness will also be free. That’s a great thing because it’s so much smarter and cost so much less to try to get things at the very beginning before having to treat a person for a very serious illness.” Wiley says free access to preventive care will reduce medicare costs because physicians will be able to detect possible health maladies before they become serious enough that warrant hospital stays or trips to the emergency room.
Wiley says an important aspect of the new law is the gradual closing of the donut hole beginning this year. “Starting this year, everyone that falls into that so-called doughnut hole where coverage ends when it reaches a certain amount of money and it picks up again will get a $250 check to help pay for their drugs. This gap will disappear completely but not until 2020, but the average person will save $700 in 2011 and by 2020, $3000.”
Wiley says it was important for the legislation to end the discrimination against persons with pre-existing conditions and the dropping of persons who have catastrophic illnesses.
“Frankly I think most people 50 and over might have something that an insurance company would consider a pre-existing condition. It’s been very difficult to get coverage and if you can get coverage at all it is so prohibitively expensive that people can’t afford it. This is going to help a lot of people who live in fear that they are going to have a catastrophic illness and have no coverage.”
The law will immediately prohibit health insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Beginning in 2014, the prohibition would apply to all persons.
Wiley says opponents of healthcare reform have spread a lot of misinformation and rumors including last summer’s talk of a “death panel” or that all the money to foot the new legislation would be taken from Medicare and many recipients would find that their benefits would be cut. Wiley says AARP has worked to counteract the misinformation by informing persons through their website, newsletters, and publications.
Wiley says the law would provide provisions that will work to cut a lot of waste and fraud in the system.
“Right now fraud and abuse are horrible problems in Medicare, and in the rest of the healthcare system too, but this bill will provide resources for additional prosecutors as well as computer systems necessary to catch these felons.”
Wiley says the new law will increase funding for community health centers to allow for nearly a doubling of the patients seen by the centers over the next five years. She says that is important for the elderly who reside in rural areas and have transportation concerns because they have to travel to larger communities or cities to get the health care services that they need. “Congressman Clyburn has been a major proponent of that provision of the bill and I’ve heard him speak eloquently about this, and for people who have a problem with transportation, and Lord knows we don’t have a decent transportation system especially for seniors and those who live in rural areas, I think these community health centers will provide a very valuable source of healthcare.”