Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Medicare is a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail; federal agency says reform has saved seniors money

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running
mate Paul Ryan talk health care in New Hampshire. Photo
by Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe.
The federal health reform law continues to be a major point of contention in the presidential campaign. Yesterday, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said, "Medicare should not be a piggybank for Obamacare," while at a rally in New Hampshire yesterday and blasted President Obama "for using $716 billion in savings from Medicare and applying it to his health care law," reports Matt Viser for The Boston Globe.

Most of that amount was taken from reductions to Medicare Advantage, a category of Medicare plans that are run by private insurance companies. The idea behind the program "was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs," reports, a Tampa Bay Times project that fact-checks statements on public policy. "But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health-care law scales back the payments to private insurers."

Ryan has proposed his own fix, a voucher program for Medicare, which Obama sharply criticized Saturday: "Now you think they'd avoid talking about Medicare, considering both of them have proposed to voucherize the Medicare system," he said. "They want seniors to get a voucher to buy their own insurance, which would force seniors to pay an additional $6,400 for their health care."

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a press release detailing how much the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has saved seniors. Kentucky seniors and those with disabilities have saved $78.4 million on prescription drugs since 2010. In 2012, seniors in Kentucky saved an average of $579 because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law covers the prescription drug coverage gap known as the "donut hole."

In the first seven months of 2012, 477,235 Kentuckians with Medicare also got at least one preventive service for free because of a provision in the law, a CMS reports.

"The health care law has saved people with Medicare over $4.1 billion on prescription drugs, and given millions access to cancer screenings, mammograms and other preventive services for free," said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services. "Medicare is stronger thanks to the health care law, saving people money and offering new benefits at no cost to seniors."

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