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The Affordable Care Act: How it Will Impact Seniors

Alison Stanton | Oct 3, 2013, 2:06 p.m.

Like many seniors in Arizona, Joyce Walther has some concerns about the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Although the 62-year-old Tempe resident is getting benefits through her work, she says she is worried that her employer may decide to drop coverage as it may not meet the requirement, or it may too expensive for the new program.

“Being a cancer survivor, I am very concerned that if I am forced to the exchanges, my coverage will be limited and very expensive,” Walther says, adding that she is also concerned that she may not be able to keep seeing her oncologist. “I had a high rate of reoccurring cancer and so this is or could be life or death for me...It all sounds very confusing and chaotic to me at this point. I definitely do not like the wait and see prospects.”

Walther is not alone in her concerns. From wondering what the mysterious-sounding marketplace and “donut hole” mean, to worrying if their Medicare or Medicaid benefits will change, many area seniors want to know how the ACA will impact them, their health care and their wallets.

With that in mind, Lovin’ Life After 50 has asked local experts to weigh in on how the ACA will affect senior citizens, especially those on Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicare

“People who are on Medicare will not need to do anything different under the ACA,” says Jaime Perikly, COO of Health Choice, a provider-owned, managed care organization that delivers health care services to its members. “The enrollment process and enrollment change periods stay the same. Their options to choose traditional Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, as well as a supplemental plan, also stay the same. For people who are new to Medicare, they will follow the same processes currently in place to enroll and choose their options.”

However, the Marketplace will not be open as a Medicare replacement, says Shay Bierly, SPHR for MJ Insurance Inc. in Phoenix.

“There has been a lot of confusion about this, because the Marketplace open enrollment period will mirror the Medicare open enrollment,” says Bierly.

‘Traditional Medicare,’ Medicare Parts A and B

Seniors who are currently covered under traditional Medicare Part A and Part B programs will receive additional benefits because co-payments and deductibles for preventive services and screenings/wellness exams for various conditions will be eliminated, says David Weissman, an attorney from Rose Law Group in Scottsdale.

“In addition, premiums for these plans have been fixed through 2017, following just a small increase in 2013,” he says.

Alan Leafman, a health insurance expert and owner of Health Insurance Express in Mesa, says he anticipates that Medicare Parts A and B will be very minimally impacted by the ACA. “Of course, as has been the case nearly every year since Medicare’s inception, benefits under Medicare A and B will be decreased—through higher deductibles, hospital copayments and cost sharing—each year. This means that the need for Medicare supplemental coverage, sometimes referred to as Medigap coverage, will be increasingly more important.”

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