Though signed into law more than two years ago, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act continues to spur questions, an official from the Kansas Health Institute said Thursday.
Though signed into law more than two years ago, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act continues to spur questions, an official from the Kansas Health Institute said Thursday. Suzanne Schrandt is a senior analyst at the Kansas Health Institute. She spoke Thursday at Leavenworth’s Heritage Center, part of an ongoing series of presentations from the League of Women Voters of Leavenworth County on the federal health care law known to some as the Affordable Care Act and to others as Obamacare. Thursday’s presentation specifically concerned the effects that the law will have on Medicare, the health care coverage program offered to those 65 years of age and older and those younger than 65 with permanent disabilities. Whether or not one agrees with the changes to the program coming as a result of the ACA, Schrandt said one thing is clear. “Medicare is not in great shape,” currently, she said. Medicare Part A is expected to be insolvent by 2024, according to Schrandt, if allowed to continue on its current track. Spending for Medicare as a whole is expected to increase from $519 billion in 2010 to as high as $1.1 trillion by 2022, she said. Schrandt addressed several of the most frequent questions she gets regarding the ACA, including the so-called “individual mandate” to buy insurance — she said those under a certain income will not face the penalty, nor will business owners with fewer than 50 employees be required to offer coverage. That includes most of the businesses in Kansas. In terms of Medicare, the program under which about 420,000 Kansans receive health care, Schrandt explained the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the group of 15 Congressionally-recommended members that would brainstorm changes in an effort to rein in cost increases. But those changes, she said, would not effect patient-level care. “They’re prevented from rationing care,” or changing eligibility requirements, Schrandt said. The reduction of costs to Medicare is something of a recurring theme in the law, she said, with free coverage for preventative care, incentives for better care coordination and hikes on premiums to high-income Medicare recipients. And the oft-cited $715 million in cost reductions is actually three different measures, she said, but did not amount to a direct cut to Medicare spending. New bodies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, will continually develop new strategies to keep costs down. But overall, a report from the KHI predicts that the full implementation of the law will mean more little changes for those in Kansas who receive Medicare benefits. “These are not new ideas — we’ve done them in Medicare, we’ve done them in all kinds of private insurance,” she said. “It can lead to so much cost savings down the road, once you make that institutional.”