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Elder law expert: Health care reform act a mixed bag for seniors
Date:2/8/2011

several years," he said. "The new law provides annual follow-up visits. That's an important addition. It makes the Medicare program more prevention-focused than it has been historically. Also, there are no co-pays or deductibles for these wellness visits."

But people who are in managed care plans are likely to be upset with the new law, Kaplan says.

"For the one in four seniors who are in Medicare Advantage plans, there will be many unappealing changes," he said. "Some plans will raise premiums on their enrollees, while others may discontinue their participation in the program altogether. In either case, the result will likely be higher costs, reduced benefits and fewer options for enrollees in Medicare managed care arrangements."

The reason for this change, according to Kaplan, is that Congress wanted to reduce the higher costs associated with managed care plans, which cost the federal government about 14 percent more than the traditional fee-for-service plan.

"Although the plans may not cut back any traditional Medicare benefits, extra benefits typically provided by managed care such as vision and dental care will probably be reduced or eliminated entirely," Kaplan says.

Other changes in the health care reform act are still somewhat ambiguous. Take, for example, the newly created Medicare Independent Advisory Board, a panel whose sole charge is to formulate proposals to lower the cost of Medicare but without rationing care or increasing the amount individual enrollees pay.

"In that case, what can the board do?" Kaplan said. "The implication seems to be that Medicare will just reduce the rate it pays to providers doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and home health care agencies. That's been the course that both Democratic and Republican administrations have followed over the years because seniors don't see the effect directly. But providers may limit the number of Medicare enrollees they'll accept, or they might
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Contact: Phil Ciciora
pciciora@illinois.edu
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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