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In The Wake of Obamacare: New Laws Will Be a Boon for Seniors

March 13, 2013 By:
Dr. David Nash
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Dr. David Nash of the Jefferson School of Population Health and Dr. Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation will be the featured speakers at the inaugural program of the Bernard Wolfman Civil Discourse Project. The program, “The Role of the Federal Government in Health Care,” will take place on March 28, at 7:30 p.m., at Beth Sholom Congregation, 8231 Old York Rd., in Elkins Park. The Civil Discourse Project, for which the Jewish Exponent is the media sponsor, is built upon the Jewish principles of tzedakah, Talmudic debate and the prohibition of Lashon Hara (evil tongue). It strives to model civil discourse in addressing controversial issus.
Admission is free, but requires pre-registration at: www.CivilDiscourseProject.org or by calling 215-887-1342.

 

One of the largest upsides to President Barack Obama’s second term is its positive implications for Pennsylvania’s seniors, as well as seniors across the country. ObamaCare’s Medi­care reform provisions both improve and expand Medicare for seniors.

Medicare cuts proposed under the plan — estimated at $716 billion — are reinvested to improve care for seniors and close the Medicare Part D “donut hole” among other things.

This is in stark contrast to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan, which would convert Medicare into a voucher program, a plan, according to at least one study, that would increase premiums for the majority of seniors, even those who choose to remain in traditional Medicare.

That nonpartisan study, released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in October, looked into the likely impact of transforming Medicare into a “premium support” system. The voucher model —which essentially gives seniors a check and sends them off into the private marketplace — is based on the notion that competition, facilitated by a free market, will bring down the cost of health care. Putting private insurers into the ring with traditional Medicare, it is presumed, will change the trajectory of overall health care costs and solve our cost crisis.

Growing up in a Reform background on Long Island, N.Y., I was taught to believe in the Hebrew phrase, tikkun olam — “heal the world.” My belief that humanity has a shared responsibility to better the world we live in has always played a role in my career as a physician, and continues to provide a foundation for my work in health policy.

From a Jewish prospective, the Affordable Care Act has tre­mendous potential to “heal the world” by providing greater access to health care for millions. The need for affordable care is especially critical to our seniors — and particularly critical here in Pennsylvania.

Currently, Pennsylvania is the fourth “oldest” state in the nation, with nearly 2.7 million individuals aged 60 and older (more than 300,000 of them are age 85 and older). By the year 2030, an estimated 3.6 million Pennsylvanians will be 60 and older.

Approximately 675,000 of Pennsylvania’s older adults have some form of disability. Many others suffer from chronic physical and behavioral conditions. Approximately 280,000 older Pennsylvanians have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

What the voucher system would do for our older Pennsylvanians, and millions of others across the country, is replace Medicare as they know it, which pays their medical bills, and give them a lump sum, which can be applied to private insurance.

Fiscally, I don’t see how this adds up. Health expenses will still have to be paid for by some kind of insurance — that’s the nature of health care and its often volatile, unpredictable costs. Replacing government insurance with a system that gives people money to buy private insurance creates another level of payment in the form of a middleman. Somehow this is supposed to save money. Just how, I don’t know.

My conservative friends believe all of this is sorted out in the marketplace, but I have my doubts. Setting the share that the government will pay through a fixed benefit voucher seems an inhumane way to go about saving the system — and about as far away from tikkun olam as one can get.

Keep in mind that, though ObamaCare “cuts” Medicare, this isn’t really a cut at all. It’s health care reform aimed at improving care for seniors. The fact is, millions more seniors will be covered under President Obama’s health care plan.

Dr. David Nash is founding dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health. A resident of Lafayette Hill, he is a member of Congregation Or Ami.

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