How the GOP bill could change Medicare

Q. How would Medicare coverage change under the Republicans' health care bill? Would the annual free wellness exams be eliminated?

A. Medicaid, not Medicare, is the target of cuts under the GOP proposals. While the Senate is still mulling its plan (a vote could come this week), the bill passed by the House last month, the American Health Care Act, retains virtually all of the ACA changes that affect Medicare beneficiaries, said Tricia Neuman, director of the Program on Medicare Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Services that will continue include the annual wellness visit. In addition, Medicare will still cover, without patient cost-sharing, preventive care recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The Republican bill also leaves in place the ACA provision that closes the Medicare prescription drug "doughnut hole" by 2020. At that point, beneficiaries with high drug costs will no longer face a coverage gap in their Part D drug plans. They will owe no more than 25 percent for brand-name and generic drugs after the deductible, whether they're in the doughnut hole or not. "This provision has already provided substantial relief to seniors with high drug costs," Neuman said. As of last July, more than 11 million seniors and people with disabilities had saved an average of $2,127 each on drugs in the coverage gap since the enactment of the ACA, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

- Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

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