Clearing the air about Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare,

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, offers health insurance for adults younger than 65. Anyone 65 or older will get health coverage as they always have -- through Medicare or their employer's insurance plan, if they're still working. Photo Credit: Handout

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Whether you are for Obamacare or against it, one thing is clear: Seniors are caught in the crossfire of a law that largely doesn't affect them.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, offers health insurance for adults younger than 65. Anyone 65 or older will get health coverage as they always have -- through Medicare or their employer's insurance plan, if they're still working. Yet many seniors are confused and angry because they believe their traditional Medicare coverage is changing for the worse.

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"Seniors are a very politically active group," says Timothy Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Va., and an expert on the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. "They've been a prime target for misinformation campaigns about the Affordable Care Act."

There have been claims by some politicians and in ominous emails sent to seniors that say Medicare benefits are being slashed. But Jost says no benefits are being cut, and some are being added, such as the gradual closing of the so-called doughnut hole in the Part D plan that deals with prescription drugs. Jost, a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, recommends going to independent websites that check the accuracy of politicians' claims and viral emails. Factcheck.org, snopes.com and politi fact.com are three websites that point out inaccurate claims made by special interest groups.

The Affordable Care Act may be a boon for older New Yorkers who don't yet qualify for Medicare and are holding onto their jobs mainly for health insurance. "That population, from 50 to 64, should benefit most in terms of access to coverage and in terms of price," Jost says. "People who have been locked into dead-end jobs because of health insurance will now have the opportunity to retire or strike out on their own."

Before the law, there were few individual policies for sale in New York, and premiums for those available were the highest in the nation. Under the Affordable Care Act, 16 insurance companies are offering more than 50 policies in the state. New York's health insurance marketplace, nystateof health.ny.gov, has, by most reports, been working better than the glitch-ridden federal website, which operates in the 36 states that, unlike New York, don't run their own marketplace.

The Long Beach Library has a free workshop on the Affordable Care Act Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. Official "navigators" will assist adults 64 and younger in accessing the New York website. Call 516-432-7201. Also, elder-law firm Genser Dubow Genser & Cona has a free seminar aimed at answering seniors' questions about the act and Medicare on Nov. 20 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Massapequa. Call 631-390-5000.

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