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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

What lies ahead for Medicare and Medicaid?

Executive Director Roseann MartocciaExecutive Director Roseann MartocciaDuring the week of January 16, lawmakers took the first steps toward repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), a budget resolution that included instructions to legislative committees to develop proposals to rescind key parts of the law. 

While the first steps of repealing the ACA have been taken, the aspects of the law that would be replaced are not clear nor are the specifics of replacement provisions.  It is a time of more questions than answers.

What would a proposal do to ensure that the pre-Medicare population (age 54-64) can access affordable and adequate health care insurance to protect their health now and save Medicare and Medicare LTSS expenditures later?

Will the Medicare wellness benefit, drug benefits and savings proposals in the ACA continue uninterrupted? 

The new administration wants to “modernize Medicare.” This phrase refers to proposals like “premium support” (giving people a voucher) and raising the age of Medicare eligibility. Congress has previously proposed giving seniors a check and a list of private healthcare plans. This approach to Medicare seeks to reduce the growth in Medicare spending by increasing competition among private health plans and providing a stronger incentive for beneficiaries to be cost-conscious in their plan selection. 

There are also significant implications to the states (and people who are enrolled) if efforts to convert Medicaid, the largest health plan for low-income people of all ages, from an individual entitlement into a capped block grant move forward. The policy approach proposed by the new administration is to offer states a choice between a Medicaid per capita allotment or a capped allocation. There are 1.9 million people on Medicaid (MassHealth) in Massachusetts. The commonwealth is one of the states that exercised its option under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover most residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Five hundred thousand new enrollees joined the program between 2013 and 2016.

MassHealth represents nearly 40 percent of the state’s budget ($13.7 billion in 2015), and brings in more than 90 percent of the federal funds received by the state ($9.79 billion). MassHealth is the essential health safety net for low-income state residents, providing health care for more than one in four Massachusetts residents. If the ACA is repealed, half a million Baystate residents could lose their MassHealth card.

It is essential to advocate to our lawmakers and to other legislators across the nation to protect the health and financial security of elders, people with disabilities, and their families.

There is national effort to get people to call their US senators regarding the need to have an adequate plan in place if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, which you can learn about at www.savemycare.org. Pass this website along to your friends and families living in other states so that they can participate in the effort as well.  

What lies ahead for Medicare and Medicaid?