Today, on the one-year anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law, Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) joined seniors from Elmcor Senior Center for a discussion on how the law is helping them. Crowley addressed how the law is strengthening seniors' Medicare coverage, reducing the cost of their prescription drugs, and improving their access to preventive care.
"In just one year, the Affordable Care Act has brought a number of health care benefits to millions of Americans, including seniors, children and small business owners," said Congressman Crowley. "With the Affordable Care Act, Americans -- not the insurance industry -- are finally in charge of their own health care and soon, all Americans will be able to rely on access to quality, affordable care."
During the event, Crowley spoke extensively about the imminent end to the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap, or "donut hole." Under the Affordable Care Act, nearly four million seniors who were caught in the "donut hole" received a $250 rebate in 2010, and in 2011, seniors will receive a 50 percent discount on covered brand name prescription drugs in the gap. Seniors are also scheduled to receive additional discounts on prescription drugs so by 2020 any gap in coverage will be fully closed. Crowley and event participants enjoyed donut holes to celebrate this key provision of the health care law.
"For too long, "donut hole' meant a dire situation for many seniors trying to make ends meet, instead of a tasty treat. Now, with the Affordable Care Act, seniors can better manage the high costs of prescription drugs and no longer have to worry about the dreaded "donut hole.' The law is a landmark step in improving the health of both seniors and the Medicare program itself," said Crowley.
The Affordable Care Act is especially beneficial to seniors and the Medicare program. The law:
* Provides a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check to help the nearly 4 million seniors who reached the Medicare Part D coverage gap in 2010 cover the costs of prescription drugs;
* Reduces prescription drug costs and starting to close the "donut hole." Nearly 48,000 seniors who fall into the coverage gap have already benefited this year from a new 50 percent discount on covered drugs, saving an average of $800 per beneficiary;
* Provides free annual wellness visits and free Medicare coverage of key preventive services;
* Strengthens Medicare for the long-term -- extending Medicare's solvency by 12 years; and
* Cracks down on Medicare fraud, which creates savings for both seniors and all U.S. taxpayers.
Starting this year, a number of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into place, including:
* Health coverage cannot be arbitrarily cancelled if you become sick;
* Children cannot be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition;
* Young adults up to age 26 can stay on their parents' health plan, regardless of dependent status; and
* More than 4 million small businesses nationwide are eligible for tax credits to help cover health care premiums for employees.
Additional benefits to help Americans afford and access quality health care are scheduled to take effect in 2014.