With the House passage of health care reform legislation, we?ll soon be able to leave the political war of words behind and America?s seniors will see for themselves that the fear-mongering over healthcare was just that?an attempt to scare Americans away from reforms which could finally put providing care ahead of making profits.Reuters provides a concise summary of what health care reform means for Medicare saying this about benefits:

WILL THE LEGISLATION CUT MEDICARE BENEFITS?There are no cuts to the traditional Medicare benefit. The lion’s share of spending cuts are in Medicare Advantage — a program that uses private firms such as Humana and UnitedHealth Group to deliver Medicare benefits. Many of these providers offer extra coverage and some of those extras could be dropped as Medicare Advantage subsidies are bought more in line with the cost of traditional Medicare benefits. Medicare Advantage payment rates will be frozen in 2011 and then gradually reduced giving companies time to adjust to the changes.

The Washington Post offered this analysis:

Medicare, the federal health program for people over 65, will undergo significant changes intended to deliver care more efficiently and at a lower price, with the aim of using the nation’s largest insurance plan to force doctors, hospitals and other private-sector players to follow suit.Medicare Advantage, a form of Medicare provided by private insurance companies to about 11 million seniors, will lose nearly $120 billion over the next decade, probably forcing providers to drop popular add-on benefits such as gym memberships.The legislation also includes smaller changes that will take effect this year. In six months, new insurance policies will have to permit adult children to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26. And small businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average annual wages of up to $50,000 will receive tax credits to offset the cost of buying insurance for their workers.Meanwhile, insurance companies will be subject to new rules: In six months, all new plans will have to cover the full cost of preventive care, including annual physicals and children’s immunizations. Insurers won’t be able to require prior approval for patients who need to see gynecologists or go to the emergency room.For seniors, the bill will immediately expand the Medicare drug benefit and, effective July 1, provide a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs for the low-income elderly.

Our National Committee analysis also found health care reform will:

  • Strengthen Medicare by slowing the rate of growth in spending for both beneficiaries and the federal government.

– The bills more than double the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund ? adding 9 additional years (from current 2017 to 2026)

  • Close the coverage gap (?donut hole?) in the Part D prescription drug program.

– Provides a $250 rebate in 2010 for seniors who fall into the hole regardless of their incomes- Provides a 50% discount for brand name drugs beginning in 2011 for seniors in the donut hole (no income limits)- Phases in additional discounts for both brand name and generic drugs until senior co-payments are reduced to 25% by 2020 (no income limits)- A typical senior who hits the donut hole will save $250 this year (2010), over $700 in 2011, and over $3,000 by 2020- Counts both the seniors? out-of-pocket spending and the drug company discount as ?True Out-of-Pocket Costs?, which will help seniors reach the catastrophic threshold more quickly

  • Improve prescription drug coverage for low-income seniors
  • Improve the Part D program for all seniors.
  • Improve preventive health care services for seniors.
  • Improve overall health care services for seniors.
  • Make necessary changes to Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Expand protections for vulnerable seniors
  • Crack down on Medicare waste, fraud & abuse
  • Improve health coverage for near-retirees
  • Expand benefits for Long-Term Care

President Obama will sign the legislation on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Senate must now act on the Reconciliation ?sidecar? of changes proposed in the House. Marketwatch describes it this way:

Senate Democrats are planning to approve the reconciliation bill by week’s end, when Congress is scheduled to go out on recess. But Republicans vow to load the bill up with amendments in an attempt to send it back to the House and kill it.