Although Medicare provides vital health insurance for about 50 million seniors and people with disabilities, most people with Medicare have some form of additional coverage. Why is this coverage so important? And what are your options for getting this coverage? Let’s take a look.
According to the Medicare Trustees’ report released last Friday, the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund (which covers the hospital portion of Medicare expenditures), is now fully funded until 2026. That’s two years longer than was estimated in last year’s report, and nine years longer than projections prior to enactment of the Affordable Care Act. But what’s more significant than the actual year cited in the report is the encouraging trend in Medicare’s costs that underlies the projection: Health care costs, and Medicare costs in particular, are growing more slowly than in the past. This is encouraging news for Medicare and for the 50 million seniors and people with disabilities who rely on it. If these trends continue, Medicare’s future fiscal challenges become significantly more manageable.
Since Medicare Part D went into effect in 2006, prescription drugs have been an integral part of the Medicare benefit package. So, the question of how seniors can save additional money on medications often comes up, but so does the question of how the entire Medicare Part D program can be more cost-effective and save taxpayers money without jeopardizing enrollee benefits.
Today, members of Congress in both the House and the Senate introduced the Medicare Drug Savings Act of 2013, which would restore drug rebates for low-income people with Medicare. President Obama included a similar proposal in his budget last week, and for good reason. Getting Medicare a better price on prescription drugs would save the federal government more than $140 billion without shifting costs to low- and middle-income seniors.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced late last week that 6.3 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved a total of $6.1 billion on their prescription drug coverage since the enactment of Affordable Care Act in 2010.
For the third year in a row, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has passed a budget proposal authored by Congressman Paul Ryan that transforms Medicare into a voucher system (also known as premium support). Starting in 2024, people born after 1958 would get a voucher to use toward either private insurance or traditional Medicare coverage. If the voucher is too small to buy adequate coverage, those who rely on Medicare will have to make up the difference with money out of their own pockets.
My grandmother likes to complain—her feet hurt, she doesn’t understand the internet, kids these days. But the one thing she never complains about? Medicare.
If you already have Medicare, you know that the coverage is very valuable, but it is far from free health care. Medicare charges substantial premiums, can require you to pay part of the cost of some services, and does not cover a number of other services at all. That’s why many seniors have some kind of supplemental coverage, either from a private Medicare supplement (Medigap) plan or from a former employer.
On Tuesday, Congress passed a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.” It passed both the Senate and the House with large majorities. The deal did not cut Medicaid or Medicare benefits.