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CONNECT TO | Policy & Legislation
February 2011

Health care reform changes in 2011
Improved benefits, lower costs

Starting January 1, 2011, Medicare beneficiaries will see lower out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and free preventive care. People in the prescription drug program's coverage gap will be able to purchase brand-name drugs at half the current price and receive a seven percent discount on generic prescription drugs. The gap gradually will be eliminated by 2020. Twenty-six percent of Part D enrollees who filled any prescriptions in 2007 reached the coverage gap, including 22 percent who were stuck in the gap for the remainder of the year and four percent who eventually received catastrophic coverage, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. The law also improves the program that reduces drug costs for seniors with limited means and makes it easier to appeal coverage denials.

Guardianship recommendations

Eighty percent of older Americans have at least one chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. More than 90 percent of Medicare costs are spent treating chronic conditions. Starting in 2011, Medicare beneficiaries who request it will receive one free wellness visit each year, allowing them to work with their doctors to develop prevention plans to keep them healthy. They also will receive free preventive screenings and a range of prevention services, such as cancer and diabetes screenings, mammograms, colorectal and prostate cancer screenings, bone mass measurement, nutritional and smoking cessation counseling and flu, hepatitis and pneumococcal shots.

The new law funds community health teams, medical homes and care coordination to improve the quality of care that seniors receive and provide patient-centered care to better control chronic medical conditions. Reform will help beneficiaries return home successfully after a hospitalization, and avoid going back into the hospital, by providing incentives for hospitals to make sure that beneficiaries get the services they need in their communities and by teaching them ways to take good care of themselves.

The law also provides extra federal funds to help states improve in-home care services and help lower income people who are on Medicaid to get long-term care at home instead of in a nursing facility.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will save Medicare about $400 billion over 10 years and extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund for an additional nine years - from 2017 to 2026.

The National Council on Aging provides Straight Talk for Seniors on Health Reform fact sheets that discuss health care reform and Medicare benefits.

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Policy & Legislation

The Elder Justice Act
A new white paper from the National Health Policy Forum details provisions of the Elder Justice Act, which was included in last year's health reform law. The paper explains new grant programs and mandatory elder abuse reporting requirements. See how you can educate your community about elder abuse.

Resources to help reverse mortgage borrowers
Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) are reverse mortgages insured by the HUD Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Under the HECM program, property taxes, insurance and other property charges are the responsibility of the homeowner. HUD is now requiring lenders to try to collect these advances, and older borrowers who are unable to repay these advances may be in jeopardy of mortgage default or losing their home. From late January until early April, 2011, as many as 30,000 HECM mortgagees will receive a letter explaining that they are delinquent and advising them of how they can correct the situation. The Administration on Aging (AoA) has added a new page to its website with information, including an FAQ on how aging network professionals can help reverse mortgage holders who may be delinquent with payments.