Area residents attending a presentation on Medicare and the Affordable Care Act Monday evening well-represented the cross section of views on the new law across the U.S., according to presenter Erin Ninehouser.
“Medicare and the Affordable Care Act: Fact vs. Fiction,” drew about 50 from around the area to the Indiana Aging Services Center at 1055 Oak St. Most attendees were in their mid-50s and older.
When asked early in the presentation for a show of hands indicating views on the new health care law, about half raised their hands in favor and about half did when asked if they were opposed. A small number were unsure.
“I thought it was interesting, the participants in the room were a perfect representation of how people across the country feel,” she said after the program.
Ninehouser, education and outreach director with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, was invited to present by The League of Women Voters of Indiana County. Topics ranged from how to find help signing up for health insurance under the new law to how the law affects Medicare.
Regardless of varying opinions, Ninehouser said, it’s important for people to know as much as possible about the Affordable Care Act, particularly from credible sources.
“Those who will benefit most believe it’s bad or doesn’t exist,” she said.
The law went into effect about three years ago, Ninehouser said.
Her organization is working to “fill in some of the gaps” left when funding available for information dissemination and application assistance went to regions where there were more uninsured residents.
Rural areas like Indiana County had lower numbers of uninsured, she said.
Among areas her presentation touched upon were who and what is covered, how the new health care law improves Medicare and how local resources can help seniors choose a plan through the APPRISE program.
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for those 65 and older and younger people with certain disabilities, was signed into law in 1965. It also can cover those with end-stage renal failure and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
There are four parts to Medicare. Part A covers hospital, home health and skilled nursing care; Part B includes doctor’s visits and medical equipment, as well as preventative and outpatient care; Part C — Medicare Advantage is offered through private insurance and Part D takes care of prescription drug coverage.
The Affordable Care Act, according to Ninehouser, strengthens Medicare in a number of ways. She told program participants the law will:
• Provide more affordable preventative care to seniors
• Offer relief from rising drug costs for individuals who face a coverage gap with Medicare Part D
• Protect Medicare’s financial future
• Offer “coordinated, patient-centered and effective” care
• Through Medicare Advantage, offer quality and affordable choices that don’t impact the program’s long-term finances
• Offer a large network of doctors and providers
There are local resources that offer assistance with Medicare and also the Affordable Care Act, Ninehouser told the audience. She shared several options, such as the APPRISE health care counseling program, which is available in Indiana Borough at the Aging Services Center. At Medicare’s website, site visitors can enter their zip code and compare health care plans in their area.
She also mentioned PACE and PACENET are programs offering prescriptions for low-income seniors in Pennsylvania.
After the program, Dreama VanCise, of Indiana, a nurse and League of Women Voters member, said she thought it was good to hear the facts about the health care law.
The American Nursing Association, of which she is a member, asks nurses to stay informed about the law to better serve patients.
“It puts patients on edge, the unknown,” she said.
She said she believes the Affordable Health Care Act is a “law in the right direction.”
Indiana eye surgeon Tom Trevorrow thinks otherwise.
He said he has concerns about how the law will impact him, his patients and his family.
“I’m afraid it’s going to break both the government budget and the health care system,” he said.
Though he thought the discussion on accessing services was fine, Trevorrow said, he had been hoping to see more of a panel discussion format, rather than “an advocate for one side.”
According to Sherene Hess, a White Township resident and president of The League of Women Voters of Indiana County, the program’s goal was to provide information to seniors and others with questions about health care.
“The league is a nonpartisan organization,” she said. “We do a lot of work helping people to become informed on issues.”
“What our speaker talked about was the facts of the law. I think people have some questions because there is some complexity.”
PHOTO: Erin Ninehouser of the PA Health Access network spoke Monday at Aging Services Inc. about the Affordable Care Act. (Teri Enciso/Gazette photo)
• Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Erin Ninehouser, (412) 512-9225 or firstname.lastname@example.org; www.pahealthaccess.org
• APPRISE, provides health care counseling, (800) 783-7067
• Medicare, (800) 663-4227; www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan, allows visitors to compare plans in their area
• PACE and PACENET, available to qualifying individuals who need help with prescription costs, (800) 225-7223, email@example.com