Health Reform 101 for Seniors

At an annual reunion gathering of California Senior Leaders today at the University of California, Berkeley, AARP California Executive Council member Bob Prath (himself a CA Senior Leader) made a valiant effort at outlining key segments of the proposed Health Reform bill which are of primary concern to over-50 generations.

Those segments include, in no specific order of significance or degree of complexity: guaranteed access to affordable coverage for Americans 50 to 64; closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap (known to insiders and more than a few others by now as the “doughnut hole”); approving generic versions of biologic drugs; preventing costly hospital readmissions by creating a follow-up care benefit in Medicare to help people transition to home; increasing funding for home-and-community-based services through Medicaid to help people stay in their homes and out of institutions; and improving programs that help low income Americans in Medicare afford needed drugs.

If that list of details seems daunting, it was not so to the Senior Leaders. Word had already circulated that Prath had read the entire 3,000+ pages of the bill, and no eye was going to glaze over. Covering it all, though, despite a carefully prepared power point presentation, was somewhat of a challenge in the after-lunch time whittled down to less than 30 minutes by the irrepressible tale-sharings of the reunion attendees.

Prath was asked, afterwards, for suggestions of where and how anyone over 50 might find concise and useful information, short of undertaking his own feat of studying 3000+ pages. Much, he says, can be learned through Health Action Now, and those worried about exorbitant drug bills can get some good, practical help from a nifty AARP brochure, “Don’t Dump Dollars into the Doughnut Hole.”

More enlightenment from the time-squeezed power point will appear in this space over the next few days.


  1. One result of so many retirement-age (65+) people finding their safety nets ripped — IRAs, 401ks, pensions slashed or gone altogether — is the intense push from this group to get a health plan in place that protects not just their own generation but their children’s. These voices seem to keep getting louder; I hope legislators are listening.

  2. In the good old days, by the time you were in your mid-50s, pre-retirement and Medicare, many of us counted on even having a job, and perhaps a defined-benefit pension, to look forward to. Now it’s a time of extreme financial and physical vulnerability — and legislators need to address this.

  3. We may not all read the 3000+ pages, but you’re surely right that we need to know and advocate for a good bill. I hope Boomers are watching and working for it as more and more seniors seem to be. Thanks for your insight.

  4. Fran,
    Thanks – This is a timely thread at just the time we all need to weigh in
    For over forty years seniors have enjoyed a public-private health benefit (Medicare) that provides retirement stability and security. As you point out, California Senior Leaders are pleased that Health Reform bills on the table propose to increase the stability and decrease the cost of Medicare . But, what about our boomers and their kids? They live with an increasingly unsustainable health structure that costs too much and frequently places them one job change, one pre-existing condition, one serious family illness or accident away from bankruptcy. They need the same health stability enjoyed by retirees and their contemporaries in almost every other developed country.
    At this crucial moment we have a unique opportunity to provide each American with stable healthcare that can’t be taken away. We need to study the issue, and then urge Congress and the President to keep moving forward toward this goal.

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