The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) Fears Seniors Have Most To Lose If Obamacare Problems Persist

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Older adults under Medicare age are more likely to have health problems and increasing needs for both healthcare and affordable coverage to pay for it. But they also stand to be those with the most to lose if Obamacare’s technical problems drag on.

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"TSCL is shocked and disappointed that the promise we heard for so long -- that, ‘If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan’ -- has been broken," Cates says.

An estimated 10.7 million seniors, ages 50 through 64, are among those who would benefit the most from Obamacare. Older adults under Medicare age are more likely to have health problems and increasing needs for both healthcare and affordable coverage to pay for it. But they also stand to be those with the most to lose if Obamacare’s technical problems drag on, warns The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. "The very people that supported the Affordable Care Act are the ones who could be most adversely affected by its implementation," says Ed Cates, TSCL Chairman. "Non-Medicare seniors who purchased their own insurance, early retirees, independent contractors, and small business owners are being punished for being responsible citizens," he states.

About 8.1 million seniors between the ages of 50 – 64 are uninsured, and another 2.6 million, who individually purchase their coverage, are in danger of losing their policies (with millions of policies ending December 31st). "The situation for seniors losing coverage is urgent. They will only have about 2 weeks to sign up for a new policy to avoid a lapse in coverage on January 1st. So far there’s been little to assure us that the Administration can get the federal healthcare exchange functioning by then as promised," Cates says.

People who want healthcare polices that start January 1st need to enroll by December 15th. But the ongoing monumental technical problems of the government’s new online healthcare marketplace prevent many people from learning about available coverage, and whether they qualify for the new subsidies to help with the cost of premiums.

"Even if the website gets fixed in time, Obamacare’s biggest obstacle is the cost," Cates says. "As information about the new health plan costs become public, many people that we are hearing from are reacting in shock to high premiums, deductibles, and annual out-of-pocket limits, even after adjusting for subsidies," he notes. Under Obamacare, older Americans ages 50 to 64 will still pay the highest premiums because of their age, yet uninsured 50-64-year-olds tend to have lower incomes and poorer health than people who already have coverage. In addition, enrollees in the new plans will face less choice of doctors and hospitals in many areas, as plans have restricted access to providers.

The crippled federal website, Healthcare.gov, plays a critical role in determining how much people will pay for their healthcare coverage. Without enrolling through the exchange, people would be forced to forego subsidies that lower the cost of their premiums and would pay the full cost of coverage.

Recently the government announced that people have until March 31st to enroll to avoid a tax penalty for not having insurance. "While that buys a few weeks, the public needs to be wary of another, and potentially much bigger tax consequence," Cates warns. "People need to be extremely careful to accurately calculate income to qualify for premium subsidies," he says. The subsidies are actually advance tax credits and can affect what you owe in taxes. Any changes in income will need to be reported to Healthcare.gov to make sure individuals are paying the correct amount in premiums. "If your income goes up, you may have to pay back some, or even all, of your premium subsidy at tax time, and that could be a very hefty tax surprise," Cates says.

"TSCL is shocked and disappointed that the promise we heard for so long -- that, ‘If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan’ -- has been broken," Cates says. "Going without coverage for seniors is not an option. We urge Congress to ensure that seniors don’t lose access to coverage they like and want to keep," he adds.

Do you think Congress should step in to fix Obamacare problems? TSCL is conducting a poll. To participate, visit http://www.SeniorsLeague.org. To participate in TSCL’s annual Senior Survey in January, sign up now to receive TSCL’s The Social Security & Medicare Advisor newsletter by email.

With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit http://www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.

Sources:
HCR-Meth50-64-MJ110713 Seniors Affected by Obamacare, Mary Johnson, TSCL November, 7, 2013.

HCR-Un55-64-KFF0512 "Cost and Access Challenges: A comparison of Experiences Between Uninsured and Privately Insured Adults," Kaiser Family Foundation, May 2012.

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Shannon Benton
The Senior Citizens League
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