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Elections and The Healthcare System: Medicare, Affordable Care Act and More!

Do you know the affect our elections have on healthcare? Do you have questions about the future of healthcare as we transition from one President to another?

The healthcare system in the United States is heavily influenced by government and policy. Why? Public programs are governed by elected officials and our healthcare system is largely made up of public programs.

Publicly funded programs are directly impacted by the elected officials in positions which make decisions on public policy. Policy decision-makers range from the President of the United States down to your local Congressmen/Congresswomen, each having their own impact on the healthcare system at large. Some healthcare laws are even made at the state- and county-level. Some counties and municipalities have special programs for the needy, while states  on the other hand, regulate insurance companies and other aspects of healthcare.

The U.S. healthcare system is made up of the Department of Health and Human Services, with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as a managing body for these public financing programs. Nearly 1/3 of all U.S. citizens are enrolled in one of the programs managed by the CMS, to give you a sense of its size and power.

In 2010 the American people were reminded just how impacted the healthcare system really is by elected government officials with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Affordable Care Act: A New Public Option

Via – Wikipedia

(You may notice that the actual name of the law we refer to as “Obamacare” is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Obamacare is a colloquial term that’s made up.)

In the United States, prior to the Affordable Care Act, individuals had some options for acquiring a health insurance plan.

  • For those who meet certain financial requirements, government publicly funded programs were, and still are available such as Medicaid.
  • For others, employers  offer group health insurance plans as well as help cover some of the costs to acquire insurance.
  • COBRA is available for employees who leave an organization and wish to stay with their insurance plan.
  • Many in the U.S. simply opt not to purchase health insurance plans.
  • And there are others still which want to purchase insurance plans, but cannot.  

Even after these options, there were still individuals who wanted to purchase health insurance but couldn’t. Preexisting conditions held them back from getting coverage. Others could not get healthcare because purchasing a private plan for an individual was too costly.Young people who recently graduated may not have insurance offered to them yet. Plus, the plans that were available for private purchase often had restrictions and refused to cover major services.

Out of this struggle, the Affordable Care Act was proposed to provide healthcare coverage for millions of the uninsured and underinsured.

The Affordable Care Act provided the public with a new option for healthcare.  This Act would theoretically allow individuals who had previously not been given full access to healthcare a new way to acquire insurance.

On March 23, 2010 the federal statute was enacted, and is the largest regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system to date.

How did elections affect the Affordable Care Act?

The November general election in 2008  resulted in electing President Barack Obama and representatives who found the Affordable Care Act important enough to stand behind and ultimately successful enact.  Without those individuals in their elected positions, this change might not have occurred.

Further elections put individuals in place with the power to repeal this Act, or submit other policies and legislation that would provide for further alternative access to health insurance. Although some elected officials have tried dozens upon dozens of times, the Affordable Care Act has yet to be repealed and still remains law of the land.  Elections since 2010 at the state and federal level are directly responsible for the future of the ACA.

Now that the 2016 Presidential elections are over, many are speculating how President-elect Donald Trump will move forward with his promise to repeal all of Obamacare. Will he and Congress move to repeal all aspects of the law? Or will he keep some popular pieces, such prohibiting insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions?

Only time will tell!

Medicare & Medicaid

The passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 was the last time healthcare was drastically affected, as seen with the Affordable Care Act. Leading up to 1965 it was clear a greater emphasis on public health issues were needed. Controversy and debate grew while needs continued to mount. The Social Security Amendments of 1965 was legislation that resulted in the creation of two programs: Medicare and Medicaid, which provided federal health insurance for the elderly (over 65) and for poor families respectively.

The final passage of the Social Security Amendments of 1965 went through more than five hundred amendments before being passed by President Johnson on July 30th, 1965. Johnson credited President Truman with, “planting the seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick and serenity of the fearful”.

For those that can remember, Medicare, too, was faced with criticism similar to that of the Affordable Care Act. Nowadays, it’s tough to imagine an America without Medicare!

For decades Medicare and Medicaid have seen incremental improvements to continue helping those in the U.S. in need of access to the right healthcare, though many call for strict overhauls. Only those elected officials responsible for introducing, passing and enacting new policies are able to truly impact the way Medicare and Medicaid is run.

With the support of other tax payers like you, you’re able to influence the elected government officials to act on your behalf. Consider writing to your local congressman or woman, Senator or other elected officials to let them know how they should improve Medicare and Medicaid. You can even call them to request an in person appointment to discuss issues important to you.

Power in numbers helps; consider inviting other Baby Boomers and seniors to meet with you and your elected officials. Or, join a civic or advocacy group which works to improve seniors’ lives. Some organizations already have relationships with elected officials that you can piggy-back on!

Medicare Today

Medicare began as a federal entitlement program to help the elderly receive reliable health coverage as they age. Today over 10,000 individuals enroll daily which has resulted in increased Medicare costs. Over the past 25 years, Medicare spending has grown at a rate which is just slightly slower than private health insurance spending (on a per enrollee basis as reported by KFF.org).

Slowed growth in Medicare spending can be attributed partly due to policy changes that took into effect as part of the Affordable Care Act and the Budget Control Act of 2011. Over the years updates to Medicare have aimed to help improve coverage, available options and reduce costs to our aging Americans. But many fear provider changes, premium hikes in 2017, or changes to valued programs are forthcoming.

Today, over 55 million Americans are covered by Medicare and that number only continues to rise. Baby Boomers are aging in daily and enjoying the benefits and critical services that Medicare has to offer. In 1966 approximately 19.1 million Americans were enrolled. Today’s numbers are a three million percent increase, as the Baby Boomer generation has started to retire.

It’s clear that Medicare is here to stay, but exactly what changes are in store? Only time – and elections – will tell.

Medicare and Recent Elections

Election

Since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the election season has called for the issue of Medicare to be discussed at length. From Medicare reform to eligibility age, the topics in discussion vary greatly. In 2016 the hotly contested Presidential election was no different. The first election of a non-incumbent President since the passage of the ACA proved to illicit parties to take a stance on Medicare on the following topics (found on MedicareAdvocacy.org):

  1. Medicare Structural Reform
  2. Medicare Eligibility
  3. Puerto Rican Medicare Access
  4. Access to Health Care
  5. Medical Costs
  6. Rx Costs and Access
  7. The Affordable Care Act
  8. Community Health Centers
  9. Meeting the Health Needs of a Diverse Population
  10. End-of-Life Rights
  11. Advancing Americans with Disabilities

The Democratic Party Platform vs. the Republican Party Platform is split on several key Medicare issues. While one wants to suggest Medicare buy-in for persons 55 or older (Democrat), the other (Republican) is interested in setting a more realistic age for eligibility based on today’s longer life span – a bid to raise the eligibility age.

The Affordable Care Act and 2016 Presidential Election

On the issue of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton promised to push for the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in states that have not taken this step. While the Republican Party Platform has stated, “The ACA must be removed and replaced with an approach based on genuine competition, patient choice, excellent care, wellness and timely access to treatment. To that end, President-elect Trump has promised that on the first day in office, he will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  

Only time will truly tell what will actually happen with the Affordable Care Act and other aspects of Medicare. Keep in mind that the new President isn’t sworn in until late-January, so the Affordable Care Act is here to stay for at least a few more months. While President-elect Trump has promised to repeal Obamacare as soon as possible, some have been sceptical of how quickly the changes will take affect. But with Republican majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives, any changes may come sooner than some expected.

Like with most things in politics, only time will tell. Regardless of how you feel about Election Night’s results, the healthcare landscape as we know it is expected to change. For the better or for the worse is up to you to decide. We’ll be here to keep you aware of any changes.

Stay up-to-date on the most recent information with My Medicare Partners. Check back for more valuable content about Medicare.

Did you see our recent article about the election candidates and their stance on healthcare? We outline some of the tough questions we would ask the candidates, from a Medicare insurance agent perspective.

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