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Affordable Care Act could benefit older Americans

Published: Monday, July 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Staying healthy is one concern many baby boomers have.

And although public opinion of the federal health care reform measure known as the Affordable Care Act remains mixed, AARP says the law could significantly benefit older Americans.

The ACA was signed in March 2010 with an aim of making health care more affordable and getting most Americans insured. The law still is not seen favorably by many: A June poll by Kaiser Health Tracking found that unfavorable views of the law still outnumber favorable ones, 43 percent to 35 percent.

But Jennifer Creasey, associate state director of Advocacy and Outreach for AARP Illinois, said older Americans in particular may benefit from it.

“Boomers are in a unique category,” she said. “They really will be affected, but they don’t realize they will be affected. There is a lot out there, but people don’t realize it will help them.”

The Illinois Department of Aging said the law may help boomers who are 50 to 64 who need health care, but are either unable to afford it and are too young for Medicare, Kimberly Parker, communications manager for the department, wrote in an email to Shaw Media.

And for older boomers, the law improved Medicare by making preventive services – including flu shots, mammograms and health screenings – free, she wrote.

There are concerns about costs, though. The America’s Health Insurance Plans association notes that 2010 estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show the ACA will reduce funding for the benefits of Medicare Advantage enrollees by more than $200 billion over 10 years.

“Given the scope and scale of these funding cuts, we have serious concerns about their likely impact,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said in prepared statements posted on the association’s website. “Because the vast majority of the ACA’s cuts to the Medicare Advantage program have not yet taken effect, beneficiaries have not yet felt their full impact.”

Creasey, though, said the law will make the health insurance industry seem more fair and predictable to those older than 50 who have had a tough time finding insurance, have lost their job recently or might want to change jobs.

The law allows parents to keep their dependant children on their insurance plans until age 26, eliminates the lifetime cap on what a person can receive in benefits and mandates insurance companies provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

Creasey predicted there would be “hiccups” as the law continues to be rolled out. And there are many unknowns, such as the price of the insurance products that will be offered in the marketplace.

The hope is that it creates competition and drives down prices, she said, but stressed it’s too early to know if that’s what will happen.

“If everything goes as planned, it should benefit them,” she said.

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