Many senior citizens are understandably worried about whether health care reform would hurt Medicare. But as a report released last week by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explains, many of the proposed reforms are aimed at preserving Medicare. And without such reforms — whether in this overhaul plan or in other legislation — Medicare faces serious access and financial problems in the future.
"Without reform, many seniors on Medicare could lose access to the doctor they know and trust," Sebelius said in a statement. "Health insurance reform will protect the coverage seniors depend on, improve the quality of care and help make Medicare strong."
The report, titled "America's Seniors and Health Insurance Reform: Protecting Coverage and Strengthening Medicare," emphasizes that Medicare's status quo is not sustainable and explains how reforms seek to improve Medicare and help its beneficiaries.
For example, a common frustration about Medicare's prescription-drug plan is the "doughnut hole" gap in coverage. As part of the reform, pharmaceutical companies have agreed to provide seniors in the coverage gap a discount of at least 50 percent for medication costs.
Another serious concern is access to care. Low reimbursement rates, which are scheduled to be cut 21 percent next year, are causing some physicians not to accept new Medicare patients. The reform plan eliminates the scheduled payment cut (which is one reason the reform costs so much) and seeks to expand the health care work force in underserved areas.
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