RICHMOND_ AARP Virginia Advocacy Director David DeBiasi held a press briefing today with Michael Cassidy, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, to clarify facts about the Affordable Care Act’s changes to Medicare.
The briefing is in response to recent letters from members of the House of Delegates, including Speaker William Howell, that include inaccurate information about changes to Medicare, the federal program that provides health coverage to 1.2 million Virginians.
“To set the record straight, the ACA does not remove money from Medicare, and although it is unlike Speaker Howell to spread misinformation, he deliberately misled his constituents into thinking that it does,” DeBiasi told reporters.
Medicare provides health coverage to 96 percent of Virginia’s older adults. The program spent about $8.5 billion on health care for Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia in 2012.
“The claim that Medicare beneficiaries would lose benefits because of the ACA is false, DeBiasi said. “The ACA actually prohibits cuts to guaranteed Medicare benefits.”
Recent letters to constituents from Howell and other lawmakers imply that expanding Medicaid in Virginia will hurt Medicare beneficiaries and state that the ACA cut benefits for older people who rely on Medicare for health coverage.
“Changes to Medicare are unrelated to the issue of Medicaid expansion,” DeBiasi said. “Expanding Medicaid to uninsured Virginians won’t harm the Medicare program or its beneficiaries.”
Virginia’s legislators are currently debating whether to include Medicaid expansion in the state budget. Cassidy explained that the expansion would permit families earning up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
“This will help parents and working adults who aren’t able to get coverage through an employer,” Cassidy said. “These are the folks working in some of our state’s most important industries – tourism, the retail trade and construction.”
Cassidy also emphasized that expanding Medicaid won’t hurt Medicare beneficiaries.
“Federal funds that support this expansion are already allocated and have nothing to do with the changes to Medicare,” he said.
DeBiasi emphasized some of the improvements to Medicare that were made possible by the ACA, including improved preventive and wellness benefits, reductions in waste, fraud and abuse in the program and the closure of the “doughnut hole” coverage gap in the prescription drug program.
In 2012, more than 80,000 Virginia Medicare beneficiaries benefitted from the prescription drug program improvements mandated by the ACA, for an average savings of $716 per person. Nearly 80,000 Virginians with original Medicare took advantage of the new wellness exams while more than $152,000 Medicare advantage participants gained access to free preventive care.
Virginians who want to know how the ACA works for them and their families can use the online tool at www.healthlawanswers.org.