Seniors seek answers about health law at meeting


Published: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 7:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 7:45 p.m.

A crowd of more than 100 seniors questioned a group of medical professionals about the future of their health care under the Affordable Care Act during a panel discussion Monday morning at the AARP Chapter 363 meeting in the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center.

Many of the attendees expressed confusion and frustration over the changes that will occur under the legislation.

One woman told the panel that she had a hard time deciding which insurance plan was most appropriate for her when so much information was thrust on her at once.

“It’s not fair for us older people to be put in a position where we have to sit down and try to figure out what to do,” she said.

Andrea Koff, director of Outpatient Pharmacy for North Central Florida Regional Medical Center agreed that the system is complicated, but assured the audience that services are available that may aid in the decision-making process. She recommended a website called floridashine.org that provides one-on-one counseling for health insurance related questions.

One of the audience members, Claire Lederman, said she believes the Affordable Care Act will cause the country to go bankrupt.

“A lot of people don’t like it, but now it’s law so we have to live with it. Unless the election changes,” she said.

But Lederman said hearing the panel put her more at ease. She said it helped her understand what will actually be implemented under the Affordable Care Act.

“I think I’m accepting it more now, the more you hear about it,” she said.

The panel of doctors was chosen by Area Vice President of Geriatric Services for NFRMC Charles W. Anchors Jr. and President of AARP Chapter 363 Gary LeGrow.

“The doctors were chosen because of their expertise in dealing with seniors,” Anchors said.

Each panel member gave a brief address of the issues within their field that were changing or expected to change according to the Affordable Care Act.

Medical Director for Senior Healthcare Centers Alan Goldblatt said the Affordable Care Act will modify the insurance climate, but not change health care overall.

“It really institutionalizes what we already have, which is the government paying for insurance, insurance companies paying for insurance, insurance exchanges. It doesn’t go to a one-payer system or make any of the radical changes that have been suggested in the past,” Goldblatt said.

Goldblatt encouraged attendees to ask questions of their doctors in order to receive better care.

“We need to regain the high ground and realize that it’s us that are responsible for our own decisions,” he said.

Christopher Bray, medical director at Tioga Primary Care Clinic, said services will be advanced in terms of the Medicare population.

“It will provide more access and more cost savings,” he said.

Ann Weber, chief medical officer at NFRMC, said the hospital has a timeline of implementations required under the Affordable Care Act that is around 4 feet long. But Weber said many of the requirements have already been implemented.

She explained that, in hospitals, the legislation emphasizes hospital quality and outpatient care.

Koff talked about the “donut hole” or the Medicare coverage gap occurring during the transition to a complete Affordable Care Act system. The donut hole is the gap in Medicare where insurance holders must pay the full cost of prescriptions until they meet certain requirements, at which point Medicare kicks back in.

“What we are going to see until 2020 is a slow progression to where there will be no more gap,” she said.

LeGrow said he has thumbed through the legislation of the Affordable Care Act and believes it is hard to discern what exactly will occur.

“I think there’s an awful lot of unknowns,” LeGrow said, “and, frankly, I thought these four doctors did as good a job as they possibly could, not only in their talk at the beginning but also trying to answer questions. But there are some of these questions they just can’t answer.”

LeGrow said the event was an opportunity for attendees to hear an unbiased analysis of the Affordable Care Act, without political agendas getting in the way.

“One of the reasons we had this meeting so all these people could listen to four doctors talk about the Affordable Care Act was because most of the information that is being given out is being given out by people who represent either one political party or the other,” he said. “These people didn’t do that.”

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