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Medicare Milestone at 48: More Savings in Hopper for NH

Photo: Advocates celebrate Medicare Anniversary at NH Congressional Delegation offices. Credit: Natasha Perez
Photo: Advocates celebrate Medicare Anniversary at NH Congressional Delegation offices. Credit: Natasha Perez
August 5, 2013

CONCORD, N.H. - July 30 marked 48 years since Medicare got its start, and Granite State advocates say the Affordable Care Act is extending the program's reach and saving local people thousands of dollars. While Obamacare has been a political hot potato in New Hampshire, according to the interim executive director of the New Hampshire Citizen's Alliance, Kary Jencks, there's one feature of the Affordable Care Act that's clearly saving patients some money.

"The ACA closes the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap; this is what we know as the doughnut hole," she pointed out. "So, this saves the typical senior in New Hampshire $4,200 in a decade."

Republicans have proposed turning Medicare into a voucher system, but Jencks said citizens in New Hampshire have paid into this system for their lifetimes, and it's one they should be able to count on for health care in their later years.

President Obama has indicated he is willing to increase the minimum age to 67 to qualify for Medicare benefits in order to appease critics of his landmark health care plan. Jencks said that while that might make short-term political sense, it would cost real dollars in the long run.

"If you raise the bar, that will end up costing us as a state, and as a nation, more money, because you are delaying this care that people are needing at a younger age so that they can be healthier at 70, 75, and not be drawing down so much on the back end of long-term care," she said.

Jencks said the state needs a strategy that picks out the people at risk and offers them the screening or prevention treatment they need sooner rather than later. She noted that the Affordable Care Act also ensures that efforts will continue to weed out fraud, waste and abuse, efforts which she said has already saved taxpayers nationwide more than $10 billion.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH