Stillwater News Press

Local News

May 24, 2014

Affordable Care Act important for aging Oklahomans, expert says

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma’s population is growing older, and with that comes a potential shortage in workers as people begin to retire.

To raise awareness of the issue, Oklahoma State University hosted its fourth annual Linking Geriatrics and Gerontology conference Friday to help caregivers and the general population learn more about caring for Oklahoma’s aging population both now and in the future.

Among the topics discussed were the Affordable Care Act and how it affects older people throughout the state and the nation. Laura Ross-White, who works in community planning on health and other initiatives at the Community Service Council of Tulsa, presented the topic to those in attendance.

Tammy Henderson, an associate professor at OSU and organizer of the conference, said she felt the presentation on the Affordable Care Act was vital for people to attend.

“You need to get to the Affordable Health Care Act (presentation), whether you are supportive of it or not, because there’s implications for older adults,” Henderson said.

Ross-White began the presentation with an explanation of why the Affordable Care Act was created.

“About 5 percent of people in America take up 50 percent of what we’re paying out,” Ross-White said. “Then you look and see that 18.3 percent is what 65 percent of our population is paying.

“We’re really unbalanced there, and the Affordable Care Act was created to raise accountability for that.”

Ross-White said that per 100,000 people, America spends almost double what other industrialized nations do. Despite this, Americans don’t visit the doctor nearly as much as citizens of other countries do and therefore aren’t as healthy.

“As it implies to our elderly population, this makes a big difference,” Ross-White said. “Hip replacements, drug costs ... when we’re spending twice and three times more than industrialized nations, we had to dive deep into the Affordable Care Act and really put different limitations and accountabilities on providers and health systems.”

Ross-White said this can be changed for the better through the Affordable Care Act, which focuses on payment reform, quality and delivery system design.

For the elderly, a large advantage comes in the form of strengthening Medicare benefits for people ages 65 or older. They are guaranteed full eligibility for a number of cost-free preventive services and can receive discounts on drug prescriptions. Original Medicare benefits can not be reduced or taken away under the Affordable Care Act.

In Oklahoma, it’s especially important the elderly receive the care they need so they can continue to give back to the community as they currently do.

“As we really see in Oklahoma, our elderly population is taking care of our younger population,” Ross-White. “We really need to see how this affects everyone, and the Affordable Care Act provides more care for everyone.”

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