Ask Stacy: Will Obama Stop Medicare From Paying for My Cataract Surgery?

Photo (cc) by Gorgeous Eyes

I’ve been dealing with consumer questions and complaints for more than 20 years. During that time, I’ve seen the media misinform the public more times than I can count.

In the past this was often done through ignorance, or to line someone’s pockets. These days, however, misinformation is more likely to arise from those with a political ax to grind.

Such is the case with the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

Which leads us to this week’s question.

I’ll be signing up for Medicare very soon. Do you know if Medicare will continue to pay for cataract surgery that is recommended by an eye doctor in 2014 and beyond? I heard something about Obama changing this as part of his Obamacare program. Thank you. — Miki

You certainly can’t blame Miki for asking this question. I did a Web search and came up with several sources that would make any reader concerned.

Example: From an editor’s note at Money Morning:

Hip replacements, knee replacements, and cataract surgery will be especially hard to get from Medicare in the months ahead … Which is why you should get some of those procedures done NOW if you can. As President Obama once said to an elderly woman at a town hall meeting: “Maybe you’d be better off not having the surgery and taking a painkiller instead.”

This comment, especially the last sentence, is obviously ridiculous. But like many falsehoods spread online, there’s a kernel of truth behind it.

The Affordable Care Act will reduce payments to doctors and hospitals for the care of Medicare patients. For some who hate the law, this is proof that Medicare patients will soon be getting worse care, or be unable to get some procedures. After all, the logic goes, if you’re trying to treat the same number of people with less money, the result has to be seniors receiving fewer services.

You don’t have to look far to find someone advancing this argument. According to MediaMatters.org, former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey said this on Fox News a few weeks ago:

This law [the Affordable Care Act], as written, is designed to vastly expand Medicaid and pay for it by eviscerating Medicare, taking $700 billion out of Medicare and moving it over to fund this expansion of this entitlement. It’s like robbing Grandma to spread the wealth.

McCaughey is one of many arguing that a decline in Medicare reimbursement will result in procedures being eliminated, care being rationed, and health care providers, including hospitals, refusing to take Medicare patients at all.

But that’s likely a gross exaggeration. From FactCheck.org:

As we have written many times, the law does not slash the current Medicare budget by $500 billion. Rather, that’s a $500 billion reduction in the future growth of Medicare over 10 years, or about a 7 percent reduction in growth over the decade. In other words, Medicare spending would continue to rise, just not as much. The law stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals.

In summary, while Miki’s concern is understandable, it’s unfounded. If she needs it, she’ll be able to get cataract surgery under Medicare.

She can read more about the Affordable Care Act and Medicare at this page of Medicare.gov. She might also like to read “Will Obamacare Affect Medicare? Myths and Facts” from U.S. News & World Report.

Because of the sheer volume of misinformation out there about the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy for people like Miki to become confused. So let’s take a step back and see exactly what this law is, and what it isn’t.

What the Affordable Care Act is

The Affordable Care Act is a law designed to make health insurance more available and affordable.

It attempts to accomplish this in five ways:

  • It expands the Medicaid program so more low-income Americans are covered.
  • It requires insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions, thus allowing more Americans to buy health insurance.
  • It establishes online marketplaces to promote competition among private insurance companies, hopefully leading to lower prices. (The marketplaces are where people who don’t get affordable insurance through their workplace can buy insurance on their own.)
  • It establishes minimum requirements for health insurance.
  • It requires many of the uninsured to get coverage by using both carrot and stick. The carrot is income-based subsidies for those who buy insurance on the marketplaces. The stick is penalties for those who refuse to buy insurance.

What the Affordable Care Act isn’t

The Affordable Care Act is not a government-run health care plan. By the way, Medicare, which has had relatively few complaints, is a government-run health care plan.

The Affordable Care Act does not provide government health insurance. The health insurance offered on health care exchanges is offered by private companies.

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t ration health care, establish “death panels,” or prevent seniors or anyone else from getting necessary medical procedures.

The law’s not simple, and it’s not perfect. Whether it will accomplish its objective — to bring more Americans affordable health care — has yet to be seen. So both scrutiny and criticism of this complex law, as well as its execution, are justified.

What’s not justified is frightening senior citizens, or anyone else, with lies designed to do nothing more than advance a political agenda.

Got a money-related question you’d like answered?

You can ask a question simply by hitting “reply” to our email newsletter. If you’re not subscribed, fix that right now by clicking here.

The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

Got any words of wisdom you can offer for this week’s question? Share your knowledge and experiences on our Facebook page.

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

7 Surprising Things That Damage Your Credit Score
7 Surprising Things That Damage Your Credit Score

A seemingly small stumble can cause your credit score to plummet.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction
The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction

These are the only homeowners insurance companies to earn above-average scores for customer satisfaction.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

Does Wearing 2 Masks Protect You Better From COVID-19?
Does Wearing 2 Masks Protect You Better From COVID-19?

A growing number of people are wearing two masks instead of just one. Should you join them?

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

These 10 Postal Price Hikes Start Next Week
These 10 Postal Price Hikes Start Next Week

Starting on Jan. 24, the price of various mail and shipping services will rise.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire
The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire

I’m a millionaire several times over. I got here the same way you can — by following these simple steps.

5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them
5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them

State personal income tax rates, brackets and deductions just changed in these places.

7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster
7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster

These tips can get your bathroom sparkling with little time and no elbow grease.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.