- Congressman Tim Bishop
hosted two information sessions for about 150 Brookhaven Town Seniors in Shirley and Rocky Point, with representatives from Social Security and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid
Services giving an update on seniors' health care options. Medicare is currently in the open enrollment period and seniors have until December 7 to evaluate their coverage needs and pick the plan that suits them best.
An important resource for seniors are the federally-funded State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) that provide free and individualized information and counseling, essentially serving as the local access point to the Medicare system for beneficiaries. To take advantage of SHIP, a Medicare participant simply calls into a state-run help line, and is connected to their local office after providing their address. Each caller is provided one-on-one counseling aimed at not only simplifying the process of choosing coverage, but also saving them money by finding the right coverage for them and their prescriptions.
Bishop also presented an update on his work in Congress, informing attendees that the monthly premium paid by most Medicare beneficiaries for services like physician visits and out-patient services (Part B) will increase by only $3.50, to $99.90, in 2012. Bishop noted that the Affordable Care Act is directly contributing to holding down premiums because $2.9 billion of Part B expenditures next year will be financed by new annual fees on manufacturers and importers of brand-name prescription drugs instituted under the health reform law.
Bishop added that the low premium increase also means that seniors will see nearly all of the 3.6 percent Social Security cost of living adjustment for 2012 reflected in their monthly benefit checks.
Bishop also highlighted an Associated Press
report that the Affordable Care Act has helped millions of seniors by helping to close the Medicare Drug Benefit's coverage gap or "Donut Hole," which will shrink by about 40 percent this year. The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent over $1,500 this year on prescriptions, but that cost fell to around $900, according to Medicare's Office of the Actuary. The Affordable Care Act mandated a 50 percent discount from pharmaceutical companies on brand name drugs and requires plans to pay 14 percent of generic drug costs for seniors in the "Donut Hole," leading to an average savings of $603.
"Health reform strengthened Medicare," Congressman Bishop said. "The Affordable Care Act helped provide seniors significant cost savings on prescription drugs and low premiums for the care they need, while also improving how Medicare pays providers and achieving necessary cost savings."
The New York Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP) can be reached toll free at: 800-701-0501 or locally at 800-342-9871. It can also be visited online at http://www.aging.ny.gov/healthbenefits.