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Affordable Care Act brings new things to Medicare for Crossroads residents

By JR Ortega
March 2, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Updated March 1, 2011 at 9:02 p.m.

SOME HEALTH REFORM CHANGES IN 2011Nutritional Labeling

Effective March 23

The disclosure of the nutritional content of standard menu items at chain restaurants and food sold from vending machines will be required.

Funding for Health Insurance Exchanges

Effective March 23

States will be provided with grants to begin establishing the American Health Benefit Exchanges and Small Business Health Options Program Exchanges. The exchanges will promote the purchase of insurance by individuals and small employers.

Medicaid Payments for Hospital-Acquired Infections

Effective July 1

Prohibits federal payments to states for Medicaid services related to certain hospital-acquired infections.

SOURCE; The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's Health Reform Source

NEED TO KNOWTo see a rundown of all the health reform changes that have happened and will happen, visit and search for the "implementation timeline."

Astressful sigh slips from Jackie Phillips' mouth as she fingers through wrinkled, worn-out papers inside a red, manila folder.

"It's not cancer yet," the 39-year-old Victoria woman said about the hysterectomy she has needed since last March.

The papers, jammed into the pockets of the folder in every which way, are the medical bill statements she has received in the past year.

Despite being already $20,000 in debt for tests and an emergency appendectomy, Phillips decided to take the plunge to buy a $300 a month insurance. It took effect Feb. 1.

Phillips is not alone when it comes to living without health insurance.

Changes toward stronger healthcare coverage remain to be seen under the Affordable Care Act, which started in 2010.

The big change in 2010 was the elimination of the pre-existing condition in those who have been uninsured for at least six months.

But 2011 is seeing even bigger changes.

The biggest and most notable is the additions to Medicare, said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.

"We have started closing the coverage gap," said Dunkelberg of what's already in effect.

The Medicare Part D gap, widely known as the doughnut hole, is slowly closing because of a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs implemented in January, she said.

January also brought no out-of-pocket costs for Medicare annual check-ups and other preventive tests for seniors, like colorectal screenings,

However, the changes are at risk for Texans like Phillips, who works as an agency nurse and doesn't receive any medical benefits.

Texas is working hard to repeal the act. However, Texas is in dire need of health care reform, Dunkelberg said.

"Texas is the state with the lowest uninsured yet we stand to gain the most from health reform," she said. "It's unfortunate that such an important issue has gotten caught in political slogans."

Dunkelberg has lead health care reform discussions in cities across Texas and has noticed many people are still confused about the basics of health care reform.

Educating the public is a challenge, she said.

Phillips has not kept up with many of the changes in health reform, but can only hope it's on for the better, she said.

Though she is insured, her two children still aren't.

Since last March, Phillips had been wading through different types of aid that could help lessen the financial blow. In that pool of aid was at least 12 different insurance companies.

"I hope it's a good thing," Phillips said. "I'm hoping it doesn't destroy our health care system."

Phillips now is faced with choosing a date for her surgery.

"Don't put it off," Phillips advised. "It's hard to keep up with just your health problems."



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