How the Affordable Care Act will affect those over 65

COLUMBIA (WACH) - It is estimated that 49 million Americans are currently on Medicare.

Most, but not all, are 65 years old...or older.

"Almost all of them that are in my circle are on Medicare. And most of us have supplementary health care insurance that we purchased along with it." says Dr. A. W. Hursey, who is 80 years old.

So how will the Affordable Care Act affect this 15% of our population?

"There were some improvements to Medicare. Some additional benefits added through the Affordable Care Act." states Teresa Arnold, the AARP State Director.

And those improvements will benefit every person on Medicare, regardless of their current health condition.

"Primarily, a new annual wellness visit that they do not have to pay a co-pay for. So it's a free annual wellness visit. And in addition, they don't have to pay co-pays for their preventative screenings." explains Arnold.

Preventative screenings would be procedures like a colonoscopy or a mammogram.

Another improvement is the Affordable Care Act works to help out seniors who fall into a coverage gap with their drug plan. It happens when the seniors spend a certain amount of money on covered drugs, but then they have to pay money out of pocket until they reach a certain limit. This coverage gap is sometimes referred to as the donut hole.

"It lowers out of pocket prescription drug costs by closing the donut hole. So someone currently has their prescription drug plan through Medicare, they receive a benefit up to a certain amount but right now there is a period of time where they are paying a premium and they are not getting coverage on their prescription drugs." Arnold says.

It is important to note this donut hole is only in reference to those who decide to get Medicare drug coverage, also known as"Medicare Part D."

Due to the Affordable Care Act, seniors got a 50% discount when buying brand name drugs in 2012.

The claim is the health care reform will continue to get stronger until the donut hole completely disappears in 2020.

Then seniors will only pay their usual drug co-pays.

And what are seniors' thoughts on the Affordable Care Act?

"When the Affordable Care Act came along, I got involved in it enough to realize that it wasn't going to impact us." says Hursey.

And professional opinions?

"I can't find anything in there that would be a disservice to the elderly at all." concludes Arnold.

But it is always important to check with your provider to see if any of your coverage will change or be affected by the Affordable Care Act.

"If you have an individual policy pre the Affordable Care Act, that you contact your provider and that you find out what, if anything, their plans are with respect to the specific policy that you have." advises Ernie Csiszar, a clinical professor at USC.

Ultimately, only time will tell how everything will play out.

But for now, the future is looking bright for those over 65 as they continue to plan for thier future.