Obamacare and Seniors: Two Opposing Views

On June 28, the US Supreme Court ruled that The Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – is constitutional. That means that moving forward, all Americans, including seniors, will be part of the Act.

That’s making many Americans very happy, but many others very unhappy. In fact, a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows a very sharp divide, with 47 per cent of Americans in favor of the Affordable Care Act, while slightly less, 43 per cent, are opposed.

But beyond the politics, what does the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, mean for seniors? What will its effect be? To help clarify a complicated situation, RetirementHomes.com spoke to two organizations on opposite sides of the debate: AARP, a major proponent of the healthcare law, and the American Seniors Association (ASA), which bills itself as the ‘Conservative Alternative to the AARP,’ which opposes the law.

“I understand that the philosophy of this (Obama) administration is that it wants to reach the uninsured,” said Phil Kent, CEO of the ASA. “The problem is that it’s very expensive, the way they’re doing it is tyrannical, and it also causes the rationing of healthcare.”

The Affordable Care Act, which requires every American, with some exceptions, to have basic health insurance, or face a monetary penalty, not only takes away the individual’s choice about their healthcare decisions, but also will cause higher expenses for medical equipment manufacturers, among other vendors, who will then pass on added costs to customers, hurting seniors specifically, Kent said.

But AARP, which has lobbied aggressively for the Affordable Care Act, disagrees.

Ariel Gonzalez, AARP’s Director of Federal Health and Family Advocacy, told RetirementHomes.com that his organization favors the Act because it seeks to eliminate the ‘Donut Hole.’ The Donut Hole, also known as the Medicare Part D coverage gap, is the time between when a person’s Medicare prescription drug coverage has ended, and the length of time which that person still needs to take their medications.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010 estimated that more than one in four Medicare recipients had stopped taking their medications once their funding ended, but an early provision of the Act has already mailed a few hundred dollars to four million Americans to help narrow the coverage gap.

Phil Kent, however, said that money has to come from somewhere, and Medicare in general will be taking a hit with Obamacare, and seniors are turning against the Act.

“Seniors are aware of the 500 billion dollar cut in Medicare with Obamacare, he said. “This act means the rationing of healthcare; we will have to do with less.”

But according to Gonzales, when Americans, including seniors, are asked about specific areas of the Affordable Care Act, many of them are in favor, so the Act as a whole remains too detailed for most people.

“It’s a big law,” he said. “It’s a lot for folks to grasp and understand, so AARP is taking a leadership role in terms of educating individuals and educating seniors about the benefits of the law.”

For Kent and the ASA, however, seniors don’t oppose the Affordable Care Act due to a lack of education.

“I think America’s seniors are getting more educated by the month, and polls show Obamacare remains very unpopular,” Kent said.