Strengthening Medicare and Protecting America's Seniors

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted June 10, 2010

On Tuesday, I joined President Obama at a tele-town hall meeting in Wheaton, MD, to answer seniors’ questions about what the Affordable Care Act will mean for them and to clear up misconceptions about Medicare.  We took questions from seniors watching our event from around the country, and HHS officials fanned out across the country to attend some of their watch parties in person.

The President opened our event by describing how the Affordable Care Act strengthens and renews Medicare, the “promise to America’s seniors that you can live out your golden years with some basic peace of mind and health coverage that you can count on.”  Seniors won’t lose their guaranteed Medicare benefits, whether they are in Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage.

In fact, the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare. This year, eligible seniors who reach the “donut hole” – or the gap in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage – will receive an automatic, one-time tax-free $250 check to help cover their costs.  And the donut hole will be phased out over ten years, starting with 50% savings on Medicare Part D-covered brand-name drug prescriptions in the donut hole next year.

Coming next year, the Affordable Care Act will provide seniors free preventive care services like free cancer screenings and a free annual wellness visit.  New community health teams will coordinate care for seniors with multiple doctors and for seniors transitioning from hospital stays back into their communities.

In addition, we are working to strengthen Medicare by fighting fraud, waste and abuse using new resources provided by the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, since the passage of the new law, we have witnessed an uptick in scams against seniors. We have a zero tolerance policy for people who prey on seniors. Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder and I sent a letter to the State Attorneys General asking them to join us in mounting a substantial outreach campaign to educate Medicare beneficiaries about how to avoid scams and prevent fraud which will begin this summer. As part of this campaign, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid also announced some radio ads that will run across the country.

To learn more about how the Affordable Care Act will strengthen Medicare and to find resources explaining the new benefits of the law, visit www.medicare.gov. To learn more about our efforts to stop fraud, visit StopMedicareFraud.gov.