MIAMI – Thousands of South Florida senior citizens dialed in Oct. 4 for a telephone town hall discussion about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – an indication of how high concern is about those health safety net programs.
Among the top issues of the dozens raised by seniors, were the effects of the Affordable Care Act, the millions of new people coming into the Medicare system and the dueling policies debated on Capitol Hill.
Panelists on the call included Joe Caldwell, a director from the National Council on Aging, Florida tax policy expert Karen Woodall and Dr. L. Toni Lewis, a family physician and gerontologist.
“The high number of participants punctuates the need for policymakers to engage in serious dialogue with the senior community,” said Gihan Perera, executive director of Florida New Majority Education Fund.
A survey of call participants showed:
- 83 percent said they currently receive Medicare.
- 62 percent, said they were either very confident or somewhat confident they understood program changes, compared with 24 percent who said they were not very confident. Another 14 percent said they were not confident at all.
Anne Chernin, an organizer with Caring Across Generations in Florida, said her group is excited about starting a series of community chats.
“Senior citizens are engaged, and want to learn more about these proposals that will impact their health and their pocket books,” Chernin said.
Lewis said there is confusion about the reported $716 billion in cuts to the Medicare system.
She said the cuts would not affect patients’ benefits. “There will be a $716 billion decrease in spending, but not a decrease in benefits,” Lewis said.
She added that those savings would come from overpayments to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).
“That will help the system in the long run,” Lewis said.