Letter to the editor: For our parents and grandparents, let’s use the facts

Janice K. Laue Is President Of The Iowa Alliance For Retired Americans, A Nonprofit Organization Representing More Than 35,000 Iowa Retirees. Matt Sinovic Is Executive Director Of Progress Iowa, A Nonprofit Advocacy Group.

Let’s face it: There are a lot of rumors about Obamacare.

You get them in your email and hear them repeated all over town. Many of the biggest rumors are aimed at scaring seniors, especially now that we’re in the midst of an election. So what’s true? Grandparent’s Day is celebrated this month, so let’s sort things out.

Will “unelected bureaucrats” at the Independent Patient Advisory Board “ration” my care? The short answer is no. Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize winning fact-check website, says: “The [advisory board] is forbidden from submitting ‘any recommendation to ration health care,’ as Section 3403 of the health care law states. It may not raise premiums for Medicare beneficiaries or increase deductibles, coinsurance or co-payments. The IPAB also cannot change who is eligible for Medicare, restrict benefits or make recommendations that would raise revenue.”

But what does the advisory board do? Basically, when Medicare’s spending increases above certain levels, it makes recommendations to bring those increases under control. The board will consist of health care experts, including senior representatives, and our elected Congress can overrule them any time.

Is Obamacare doubling my premium? Again, the answer is no, but you can check for yourself. Just look at your own premium. Or ask your parents or grandparents if you’re not on Medicare yet. In reality, Medicare’s actuary predicts the premium will rise only slightly in the coming years, to $112.10 in 2014.

Does Obamacare cut Medicare? Under Obamacare, Medicare’s budget still goes up, but it doesn’t go up as much as previously forecast. That’s because Obamacare makes Medicare more efficient. It focuses on fighting waste and fraud, and there have already been big crackdowns saving billions.

Private insurance companies that have been getting taxpayer subsidies to administer Medicare for some enrollees are also getting less of our money. They promised to do the job cheaper than government, but they couldn’t beat Medicare’s 2 percent overhead. Another savings comes from reducing payments to hospitals that re-admit patients for things that should’ve been fixed before they were discharged.

Will Obamacare reduce my benefits? Obamacare has actually increased benefits:

It has made many preventive services available to Medicare enrollees without co-pays or deductibles, including yearly wellness exams, many screenings, and even flu shots (a full list is at www.healthcare.gov). About 75 percent of our health costs come from preventable diseases, so catching things early or preventing them altogether will save money and lives.

Seniors who hit the “donut hole” now get a 50 percent discount on brand name prescription drugs, and by 2020, the donut hole will be completely phased out.

With these measures, Obamacare has actually extended Medicare’s life by eight years, from 2016 to 2024. As Ben Franklin said: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

We know it’s an election year, but we hope politicians will use facts, not scare tactics, when talking about Medicare and Obamacare. Seniors have paid into Medicare for years. They’ve earned their benefits and the truth. To learn more, visit www.protectiowaseniors.com. And if you come across more rumors, please contact us at [email protected] or [email protected]