Andy Griffith Promotes Healthcare Law to Retirees

Many seniors are unsure how health reform will impact Medicare.

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Actor Andy Griffith is promoting the benefits President Obama’s healthcare law adds to Medicare. In a public service announcement for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the star of The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock lists the new services seniors will receive including free checkups, lower prescription drug costs, and an increased crackdown on Medicare fraud.

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The commercial, launched on the 45th anniversary of Medicare last week, is part of a public education campaign about changes to Medicare benefits. Retirees’ knowledge about the health reform law’s impact on Medicare remains mixed. For example, only half of seniors know that the Affordable Care Act will gradually close the doughnut hole gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage and just a third are aware that the legislation eliminates co-pays and deductibles for some preventative care services, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in July. Many seniors also believe a great deal of misinformation about the health reform bill. For example, half of seniors mistakenly say the law will cut benefits that were previously provided to Medicare recipients and over a third incorrectly believe the law will allow a government panel to make end-of-life care decisions for Medicare beneficiaries.

[See Survey: Voters Oppose Most Social Security Changes.]

“Seniors were the target of a major misinformation campaign that was designed to scare and confuse older Americans about the real impact of reform,” writes Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to President Obama, about the new ad campaign. “We are committed to correcting the record and ensuring seniors have the information they need and get the high quality care they have earned and deserve.”

Medicare’s actuaries predict that the Affordable Care Act’s changes to Medicare will extend the life of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund by 12 years from 2017 to 2029. A new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services report released yesterday outlines how provisions including reducing fraud and cutting payments to Medicare Advantage plans will save $7.7 billion within the next two years and $418 billion over 10 years. The savings will be used to reduce monthly premiums by nearly $200 annually by 2018. Yet, only 14 percent of seniors say they know the health reform bill will reduce Medicare’s projected deficits, according to the KFF poll. Nearly half (45 percent) of seniors think the health reform law will weaken Medicare’s financial position.

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The Griffith Medicare advertisement follows a string of successful celebrity-studded public service announcements starring Patty Duke and Chubby Checker promoting various features of Social Security. When Duke began promoting signing up for Social Security online in January 2009, Internet applications jumped 9 percentage points within 30 days.