Hi everyone! It's Heather Heppner with AARP Illinois back with another Tuesday blog post on the new health care law. This week, we'll be focusing on how the new health care law impacts Medicare beneficiaries. Check out some of our frequently asked questions (and their answers!) below.
We all know that there are a lot of changes coming down the pike with the new health care law. But how does Medicare fit into the picture? What changes can you expect? The new health care law, or Obamacare as it's commonly called, strengthens Medicare by adding free preventative benefits, gradually closing the Medicare Part D " doughnut hole", improving access to primary care doctors and cracking down on fraud. Let's take a look at each of these components (and others!) in further detail.
Q: What preventative services will now be available for Medicare beneficiaries? And when do these benefits become effective?
A: In addition to colonoscopies, mammograms, bone density and diabetes screenings, and screenings for certain cancers, the health care law adds an annual personalized health assessment and prevention plan to the list of covered preventative services in Medicare. You will be able to see your provider for this assessment every year, at no cost to you. These new preventative benefits actually became effective on January 1, 2011
Q: How will the new health care law impact my Medicare Part D prescription drug plan?
A: If you have a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and fall into the coverage gap or "doughnut hole", your out-of-pocket drug costs will be greatly reduced in the future. In 2013, if you fall into the coverage gap, you'll get a 52.5% discount on brand-name drugs and a 21% discount on generic prescriptions while you are in the coverage gap. In the past, you have had to pay 100% of the cost of your prescription drugs while in the doughnut hole. However, the health care law gradually narrows the doughnut hole until it disappears in the year 2020.
Q: Will my Medicare Part D premiums increase because of my income?
A: Single individuals who make $85,000 or more (or couples who make $170,000 or more) per year will see an increase in their Medicare Part D premiums.
Q: How does the health care law help ensure that I have access to a primary care doctor?
A: The new law gives bonus payments to primary care doctors and nurses who provide quality care to Medicare beneficiaries. It also provides extra payments to physicians and nurses who provide primary care in areas with doctor shortages.
Q: Does the health care law eliminate Medicare Advantage plans?
A: No. Nothing in the health care law makes Medicare Advantage plans go away. Medicare Advantage plans will differ in how they respond to the changes as a result of the health care law. Every year, companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans make decisions about what they charge and whether they continue in the insurance market. Under the law, they will continue to make the same set of business decisions.
Q: Will I have to pay Federal income tax on my Medicare benefits because of the health care law?
A: No. There is nothing in the health care law that requires you to pay Federal income tax on your Medicare benefits.
Q: If I have Medicare, do I have to purchase additional coverage or my supplemental insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace?
A: The Health Insurance Marketplace is not for people who have Medicare or supplemental ( Medigap) coverage. Medigap plans are not sold through the Marketplace, so you will continue to shop for Medigap supplemental coverage as you always have.
Find out more about how the new health care law impacts you and your family by visiting HealthLawAnswers.org. And check back with the blog regularly as we'll continue to post important information.
Until next week.....be healthy!