By Mary Johnson, editor
The GOP’s health legislation now in the Senate includes provisions affecting almost everyone, including older people on Medicare and Medicaid. The deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funding in the House version of the bill display what is either a disturbing ignorance of the healthcare costs experienced by older constituents, or highly calloused disregard for the affordability of older people’s health care coverage.
Information about the public’s health cost burden is no secret. It is widely available from many organizations, including TSCL. But it can’t go on the record when lawmakers refuse to hold hearings, like they did in the House, and as the Senate now seems intent on doing.
TSCL is wasting no time in making public the information that our readers have supplied on the health care cost question. In TSCL’s 2017 Senior Survey we asked:
“Of the percentages shown below which most closely represents the total portion of your Social Security payments that you spend on all health care costs? Please include the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and any uncovered costs.”
Here’s what 870 respondents said:
|Percentage of Social Security spent on health care||Percentage of people responding|
|10% or less||11%|
|11% - 33%||56%|
|34% - 50%||23%|
|51% - 99%||7%|
|100% or more||3%|
TSCL is not the only organization publicizing this problem. Recently the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund issued a report on new research that supports our survey findings. Their research found that 27% of all Medicare beneficiaries — an estimated 15 million older and disabled adults — spent 20% or more of their household income on out-of-pocket medical expenses and monthly premiums in 2016. The report said that, “adequate coverage and affordability are beyond the reach of many low and moderate income people.”
It should come as no surprise that those with the lowest incomes spend the biggest share of their incomes on healthcare costs. The report found that 40% of beneficiaries with annual incomes below twice the poverty level ($24,000) have such high costs. But it is unconscionable for our elected lawmakers to disregard this fact, which affects their own constituents and voters. Your involvement by contacting Congress, attending town halls, writing letters to the editor, and talking with others, is having an effect, but there’s a lot more work still to be done as the Senate takes its turn at “fixing” our health care.
To get the latest, visit TSCL’s website for the weekly Legislative Update .
Source: “New Commonwealth Fund Report: More Than A Quarter of Medicare Beneficiaries Face High Out - Of – Pocket Costs and Financial Burdens,” Schoen, Davis, Willink, Commonwealth Fund, May 12, 2017.