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doctorWe’ve heard a lot of talk about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. But how does it affect Tennessee’s seniors?

The ACA set up health care exchanges for people under age 65 to buy insurance on the private market. The insurance marketplace itself does not impact those who receive coverage through Medicare, but other provisions of the act were designed to benefit seniors.

The Act is actually an 11-year-long plan that also closes the “donut hole” gap in Medicare Part D coverage by 2020, giving seniors now a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a $250 rebate.

It also eliminates deductibles, copayments, and other cost-sharing in Medicare. It created free annual wellness checkups, saving seniors the 20% they previously paid for many preventive services and office visits.

In the first 11 months of 2013, 72 percent of Original Medicare Part B Tennessee enrollees received all free services, while 85,302 participated in annual wellness screenings.

Health care reform was designed to reign in wasteful spending, fraud, and abuse, thus extending the life of Medicare and eliminating insurance subsidies without affecting the program’s guaranteed benefits to seniors. It put Medicare Advantage plan payments more in line with the costs of the Medicare program and provides incentives that improve quality of service.

The ACA promotes better care after a hospital discharge and links payments between hospitals and other care communities to promote more effective transitional care. It was designed to control chronic disease by investing in innovations and encourage hospitals to make their own investments in discharge planning and quality of care measures across all providers.

Long-term care is also made more affordable with the creation of a voluntary program that provides a cash benefit to help seniors and people with disabilities obtain services and supports that help them to remain in their communities.

Providers who show significant progress in improving patient outcomes have been given incentives to meet quality goals so our health system moves toward one that rewards efficiency.

These are just a few of the ways the Affordable Care Act gives Morristown’s seniors greater control over their own health care.