07/05/2012 02:29 pm ET

50+ Already Seeing Tangible Benefits from Affordable Care Act, AARP Says

By Jeffrey Davis, AARP's senior vice president of media relations

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the majority of the Affordable Care Act has sparked plenty of debate and questions. But for many, the questions aren’t about politics and legal terminology but about what the implementation of the law means for them. For those ages 50+, the benefits of the law are many.

Most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are scheduled to take full effect by January 1, 2014. However there are a number of benefits Americans aged 50+ have already seen and will continue to see as the law is implemented. Here are just a few highlights.

Are you the parent of a young adult age 19 to 25? If so, your child can stay on your health insurance through age 25. Millions of young adults are already taking advantage of this benefit of the Affordable Care Act; the proportion of insured adults age 19 to 25 has increased to nearly 75 percent since the law’s enactment.

If you have Medicare, you can now enjoy annual wellness visits at no additional cost. In 2011, 2.2 million people with Medicare benefitted from the new Annual Wellness Visit. Additionally, some preventive care services are also available at no additional cost including some immunizations and screenings for cancer or diabetes. In 2011, over 32.5 million Americans in Medicare used one or more free preventive service.

For those with Medicare Part D, you’re already beginning to see the prescription drug coverage gap –- or doughnut hole -– close. Prescription drug discounts in the doughnut hole will gradually increase until 2020 when the doughnut hole will disappear. In the first five months of 2012, 745,000 people with Medicare Part D saved a total of $485.3 million on prescription drugs in the doughnut hole -– that’s an average of $651 in savings per person this year. Since the law was enacted, 5.3 million people with Medicare Part D have saved $3.7 billion.

Further, the Affordable Care Act is providing new resources to fight Medicare fraud and abuse while adding about 10 years to the solvency of Medicare. Already, Fiscal Year 2011 saw $4.1 billion recovered in health care fraud -– the highest amount to date.

Even if you’re not yet eligible for Medicare, there are a number of other benefits you may already be seeing. If you have private or employer-based insurance, insurance companies can no longer place lifetime dollar limits on your health coverage and, so long as you pay your premiums, you can’t be have your coverage dropped if you become sick or disabled. Additionally, many private insurance plans are now required to cover more preventive care services including mammograms and other screenings.

In 2010, nearly 8.9 million Americans age 50 to 64 were uninsured and more than one in five insurance applications from individuals age 50 to 64 was rejected. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, those who are uninsured or have a pre-existing condition are seeing real change.

Starting in 2014, insurers can no longer deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition. Additionally, new health insurance exchanges will offer better access to insurance and more options for small businesses, self-employed people, and those who had previously been denied coverage or were unable to find affordable coverage. The law also limits the use of age rating to charge exorbitant premiums for older Americans.

To learn more about what the Affordable Care Act means for you, AARP has put together a great resource. The AARP Health Law Guide is an easy-to-use online tool that allows you to create an personalized report of what benefits are available to you now and what benefits may be available to you in the future with resources on accessing those benefits. The AARP Health Law Guide is available in English and Spanish.