Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) visited the Greenbriar Clubhouse in Marlboro Thursday to discuss the impact of the Affordable Care Act on seniors.
Pallone was a principal author for the health care bill, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The intention of the bill is to create cost-cutting opportunities for seniors living on Medicare and Medicaid with a fixed income, he said.
The Affordable Care Act stresses preventative services to alleviate the cost the government and hospitals bear with patients on Medicare in nursing homes and hospitals, Pallone said.
Co-payments for services such as annual wellness visits, colonoscopies and mammograms are waived for Medicare and Medicare Advantage seniors through the Affordable Care Act.
"There are a lot of people that simply don't do these things because of the copay," Pallone said. "We figure we save money, and people don't go to the hospital and people live longer."
The act also reduces prescription costs for seniors that fall into a gap through Medicare Part D. The plan covers prescription costs up to $2,500, but stops until the costs is "considered catastrophic," according to Pallone. Through the Affordable Care Act, seniors can receive a discount during that gap in insurance payments.
Pallone said many doctors have stopped accepting Medicaid, and the act bumps up the reimbursement rate from the program for doctors as an incentive to accept patients with Medicaid.
Medicare is traditionally funded with a 50 percent contribution of federal money, and a 50 percent contribution of state money. The Affordable Care Act, acting as somewhat of a supplement and reform, is currently funded entirely by the federal government.
Pallone said he recognizes the growing problem Medicare is creating financially for the nation. He said he doesn't believe privatizing the program is the answer, nor is a full-blown national health care system.
"I've been suggesting...that if you really want to fix this long term, you use the war dividend. Use the money we are saving from pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan," Pallone said.
The congressman said the system won't need a major overhaul if the government can help the economy bounce back by fostering economic growth and reducing unemployment.
The Affordable Care Act, Pallone said, also has measures in place to reduce fraud and extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund from 2016 to 2024.
For now, Pallone said, he is working within the existing system, and trying to fix it with long-term solutions.