Starting this year, the Affordable Care Act will affect all Americans, regardless of age, income, and gender. So why don’t our country’s senior citizens understand healthcare reform?
According to Mike Lillis from THE HILL’S Healthwatch blog, a recent study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) discovered that few seniors knew about and understood the ins and outs of health care reform. The NCOA distributed a 12 question survey to 636 seniors. No senior got all the survey questions right, indicating the widespread lack of knowledge about reform.
The NCOA reported that more than 40 percent of respondents believed that the Affordable Care Act would reduce their Medicare benefits—even though that’s not the case at all. Almost 40 percent of the seniors surveyed didn’t even know how to respond to that question—another scary statistic. Less than 20 percent of those seniors understood that the Affordable Care Act did not slash payments to doctors who primarily treat Medicare beneficiaries. Finally, only about a third of those surveyed had heard about the free annual wellness appointment now supplied by Medicare.
Most seniors were aware of the new law’s basics: for example, more than 40 percent of the seniors answered that the Affordable Care Act would extend health coverage to more Americans. Many respondents were well aware of the government’s initiative to close the “doughnut hole,” or prescription drug coverage gap.
Lillis argues that such misinformation may pose a threat to the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections in November. The Affordable Care Act is on the hot stove of American politics, and with widespread misunderstanding of the law, the Democrats may have difficulty using health care reform to sway voters. Seniors are important to the success of the Democrats in November.
However, providing seniors with resources that they trust is another matter unto itself. According to the NCOA, seniors simply did not trust the information they had about the new health care reform. Seniors felt that information about the Affordable Care Act was biased and unreliable, pushing the agenda of one group or another. Political jargon can often clutter the facts, making it difficult for all people, including seniors, to seek unbiased information about the reform. Ultimately, seniors—and citizens in general—deserve accurate information about the laws so that they can understand the law’s impact on them and formulate their own thoughts and opinions about reform. Perhaps the NCOA’S new program, “Straight Talk for Senior on Health Reform” can improve seniors’ understanding of health reform—and possibly impact November’s results?