Affordable care not clear for elderly

For the past couple of years, senior citizens have been warned that part of the federal government’s takeover of the health care system involves massive cuts to the Medicare program. Some of those that favor programs such as the Affordable Care Act have said those making such warnings were not being honest.

Judge for yourself: Many senior citizens already have been notified the premiums they pay for Medicare Advantage health insurance are going up – because of a 2 percent cut in federal reimbursements to insurance companies and health care providers.

All told, the reductions amount to about $150 billion and will affect millions of older Americans, including thousands right here in the Mahoning Valley.

Seniors aren’t the only victims in Ohio.

The Buckeye State has 123,668 people eligible to purchase a health insurance plan through the federal exchange. About half – 63,255 – are eligible for a government subsidy to help pay for the coverage. That leaves quite a few paying full price.

Only about 32 percent, or 39,955 Ohioans, have selected a plan. Three months into the market availability, the vast majority of Ohioans eligible are choosing not to purchase a plan on the exchange.

Even more troubling is the number of young people enrolling. Federal projections indicated that nearly 40 percent of enrollees would be between 18 and 34 years old. This is an important factor since they are generally healthier and, therefore, would help with the cost of healthcare for older enrollees. Unfortunately, in Ohio, only 19 percent of enrollees are in the 18-to-34 crowd.

The Affordable Care Act was bad for Ohoians from the start because the state’s laws allowed for a larger menu of insurance coverage, thus lowering the cost. The federal law limits the opportunity to purchase less expensive plans.

While some of these issues are unique to Ohio residents, the problems for seniors are more widespread. Some insurance companies have chosen not to increase premiums, as we reported recently. Instead, they will reduce payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. That will mean a lower quality of care for some senior citizens. It may result in some providers deciding not to accept Medicare Advantage patients at all.

Cuts in Medicare spending are not officially part of the Affordable Care Act. But they are a tactic in the strategy to force Americans to accept health care quality and costs as dictated in Washington.