(SALEM) - Ninth District Congressman Todd Young spent Tuesday afternoon in Washington County, spending an hour at the Salem Senior Center before heading to the Blue River Industries Workshop.
Young predicts 'Obamacare' won't be good for seniors
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, of the Leader Democrat reports, his visit to the senior center was sponsored by the St. Vincent Senior Renewal Program, which provided lunch for those in attendance.
With the seniors - a group of more than 60 - Young discussed how he believes the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare" will affect that age group. While the plan does have the merit of insuring more Americans, Young believes overall, the ACA is bad legislation, largely because it changed from a cost-control measure to a coverage bill.
He outlined five negatives he thinks will result from the ACA: 1) fewer choices, 2) fewer options for seniors 3) higher taxes 4) fewer doctors and 5) reduced access to care.
Describing the ACA as "mostly bad news," Young said "I believe it will lead to less choice for all seniors." While he said the commonly-held misconception that care will be rationed is not true, seniors could see a reduction in care. That's because a 15-member appointed board will decide the level of payment to doctors and hospitals for services. That level could conceivably be so low for some services "that some providers won't provide them."
When the ACA is fully implemented next year, the Medicare actuary has determined Medicare Advantage enrollment will begin dropping, plummeting 50 percent by 2017. The Advantage program allows seniors to use Medicare dollars to purchase private insurance. He also said benefits are expected to decrease by $3,700 a year.
The tax increases associated with Obamacare will affect seniors, Young said. He said medical device manufacturers have to pay a 2.3 percent excise tax on product sales. Seniors rely heavily on medical devices, everything from hearing aids to wheelchairs to joint replacements, he said. He said the tax will hurt innovation, noting the Cook Group a renowned Bloomington-based manufacturer - has chosen to expand in Europe due to the tax.
Because the older population typically has more money to invest, a 3.8 percent tax on unearned income (investments) will disproportionately affect them (tax affects those whose adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000). "They've gotta find the money somewhere for the millions who, frankly, choose not to purchase insurance," he said. Young said there is a penalty for those who don't purchase insurance; it ranges from $695 to $4,700 a person, depending on income.
By 2020, it's projected there will be 91,500 fewer doctors. With 77 million Baby Boomers retiring, that's a huge concern, said Young. He said the increased patient load coupled with reduced payments for services to physicians will adversely affect the field.
The impact will be felt much more in rural areas, Young said, where there aren't as many health care resources.
Seniors will have less access to care with Obamacare, said Young. It's predicted Medicare Part A will be unprofitable within 10 years, leading to fewer providers. Private insurance premiums will rise as a result said Young.
"It's not a real pretty picture," he told the crowd. Congress, he said, "is gonna have to look for ways to improve the plan in a very big way."
Young answered a variety of questions from the audience dealing with health care.
One related to the cost of private insurance. Young said annual premiums in the small market group (used by most small businesses) are anticipated to rise 40 percent.
In response to a question regarding prescription drug costs, Young said those costs actually could go down.
He said Obamacare will not "level the playing field" for Americans, but he believes it could result in a two-tier system of government vs. private coverage.
"These are all projections. Things may not be as bad as I think," Young concluded. "Things may be better."
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