Healthcare reform in our country has always been a struggle, and the current Affordable Care Act is certainly no exception. However, once the political sturm and drang of the Affordable Care Act starts to clear, one can discern some of the very best notions of bipartisan American innovation and problem solving for one of our country’s biggest social, economic, and moral challenges.
One way the Affordable Care Act meets these challenges is to strengthen the programs that do work, such as Medicare. Yet many people do not realize how much the new health care law continues to protect and strengthen this popular program that guarantees access to health care to all seniors and disabled younger people. The ACA protects Medicare for current seniors and strengthens it for future generations by focusing on the provision of free preventative care, reducing medication costs, improving quality, and cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse.
At its essence, the Affordable Care Act is good for Medicare, and what is good for Medicare is good for the country. Medicare is an extremely effective, and popular program, that was established in the great American tradition of compassion and responsibility. Americans earned their benefits through their hard work and financial contribution over many years. It must remain healthy and solvent. My own family has Medicare to thank for covering many of the expenses incurred when my mother was stricken with a rare cancer and spent weeks fighting for her life in the hospital.
An undeniably positive attribute of ACA is that it finally makes preventative care and wellness programs a part of Medicare services so we can sensibly address obvious health issues such as obesity, diet, smoking, and the need for early screenings. As the proverb, and promise, goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The ACA delivers on that promise. Its preventive benefits include an annual assessment and screening for risk and disease, with screening tests for osteoporosis cervical, prostrate, breast, and colorectal cancer, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, infectious disease, and preventive treatments such as flu shots, and nutrition therapies to help managed diabetes and kidney disease. ACA finally incorporates long overdue preventative services and public health in a way the original Medicare Act did not.
And now a word about spending, like many large government programs, Medicare has sorely needed reforms in efficiencies and costs, as well a better focus on outcomes instead of transactions. The good news is that the ACA has delivered on its promise to reduce costs and improve quality in exceptional ways. It has reduced prescription costs for 2.2 million seniors to the tune of $1 billion. In Florida alone, that means 100,000 seniors saved nearly $52 million. Those savings will increase through 2020, when the so-called ‘donut hole’ coverage gap will be closed completely. The ACA is focused on quality, clinical outcomes and healthy seniors. As part of that focus, it has also already significantly cut waste, fraud and abuse, saving taxpayers $4.1 billion. It will be even harder over time to fraudulently bill Medicare or charge for unneeded services. The new emphasis of health care reform will be on healthy clinical outcomes, not transactions in a fragmented system.
Americans value that Social Security and Medicare are programs established to protect our futures ahead of our need, and to protect our seniors, and those that are disabled, when there is need. These protections give each citizen the freedom they need to pursue their dreams, work hard and contribute financially when they are most able, and retire to live their dream when their time has come, knowing they are secure in the safety of a program that protects their health. Every American knows that the quality of their life is linked to the quality of their health. Every American knows that health care is a basic human need; and should not be available to only the financially privileged few.
It is fascinating that as more Americans clear away the clouds of partisan bickering and learn about the way the ACA reduces costs, expands access, delivers quality, and strengthens Medicare as we know it, the more reluctant we are to have these new reforms and benefits taken away from us.