How Health Care Reform Could Affect America’s Adults and Seniors

seniors and health care

All Americans are concerned about health care reform. People who already have health insurance are worried that theirs might change or be reduced, while those who don’t are worried that whatever they get won’t be enough. Everyone’s heard the horror stories about lives derailed by lack of health insurance, medical bankruptcies and worse, and the stakes are very, very high.

While it’s not clear that the current health care reform bill will ever be made law – it’s currently stalled in the House of Representatives (and may change because of Scott Brown) – many people are wondering what will happen if it does. Two groups which could be greatly impacted are adults and seniors. Go Insurance Rates takes a look at how health care reform could impact these age groups.

Read our article about youth and the healthcare bill.

Adults Won’t See Many Changes from Employers

Adult American men and women who get their health insurance from their employers, Medicare, Medicaid, the VA or privately will continue to receive health care the way they always have.

Big changes could appear in the way health insurance is regulated. For example, under the current legislation no one could ever be denied health insurance for having a pre-existing condition. Under current health insurance practices, someone who has suffered a major illness in the past could be denied insurance coverage because they’d be too much of a risk. If the bill passes, the “uninsurable” will no longer have to go without health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

Individuals and small businesses could also find their insurance on brand-new “insurance exchanges.” These government-regulated market places would theoretically boost competition between insurance providers and keep costs down.

Seniors and “Death Panels”

Many senior Americans are worried about health care reform because they fear it could change the way they receive Medicare. They’ve also heard a lot about so-called government-run “death panels” which would pressure seniors to make difficult decisions about ending their lives.

According the National Council on Aging, the health care reform bill will not cut any Medicare benefits. However, payments to doctors will be reduced by about 21%. Critics worry that this payment reduction will reduce Medicare recipients’ access to quality health care as more and more doctors decline to work with the program.

Concern with “death panels” is also a factor for seniors. High-profile critics like former Alaska governor Sarah Palin claim that health care reform will send seniors to government-run panels which will decide whether they (as well as the disabled) should receive medical treatment. The claim has been widely debunked as false, however.

Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage may seem some changes in the way they get health care. Medicare Advantage, which allows participants to enroll in private health plans, was originally implemented to create cost-savings. However, that has not panned out, and Medicare Advantage is now subsidized by the government. As part of its cost-saving measures, health care reform legislation would reduce the amount of subsidies given to Medicare Advantage. The result could see many seniors currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage switching over to traditional Medicare.

As we get older we become more and more concerned with our health, and rightly so. It follows, then, that our health care becomes more important to us when we enter middle age and beyond. Because of this, there may not be demographic groups with more at stake in the debate over health care reform — whether it passes or not — than adults and seniors.