Alexandria, VA: An overwhelming majority of seniors oppose two Medicare changes that are among the most widely - discussed reforms in Congress, according to a new survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). Eighty-one percent of seniors strongly oppose a proposal that would impose a significantly higher annual deductible while restricting supplemental Medigap plans from covering the cost. Only 1 percent of those responding favored the idea. Seventy - four percent also strongly oppose replacing Medicare with a premium support system of private health plans, and giving beneficiaries a premium subsidy or voucher to shop for a new health plan. Just 5 percent said they favored this idea. "Both plans shift costs to seniors, something the vast majority can ill afford," says TSCL Chairman Ed Cates.
Sixty – seven percent of seniors participating in the survey said they already spend up to one-third of their Social Security benefits on Medicare costs. Another 21 percent said they spent up to one-half. "Because healthcare costs are rising more rapidly than Social Security benefits, spending on Medicare takes an increasing share of senior income as seniors age," says Cates.
Nevertheless, Congress is considering ways to "redesign" Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that changing the cost-sharing rules for Medicare and restricting Medigap coverage would save the federal government $114 billion over the next ten years. Medicare supplements, better known as Medigap, cover Medicare's deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. The plans are popular with seniors because they provide financial certainty by reducing unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.
New research, however, suggests that Medigap substantially increases Medicare spending, because seniors with the policies are insulated from costs. Those with polices tend to receive more medical care than people who are required to pay some or all of the costs of their care out-of-pocket. According to the CBO, a 2010 study found that Medicare beneficiaries responded to increases in their cost sharing by reducing visits to physicians and use of prescription drugs. "Making seniors pay higher initial Medigap cost-sharing affects both senior budgets, and senior health — especially if seniors forego necessary care," Cates notes.
The CBO estimates that replacing Medicare with a premium support system would save the federal government as much as $275 billion over ten years. The CBO also estimates that premiums paid by affected beneficiaries, however, would be about 30 percent higher on average by 2020 than the current projected Part B premium. In addition, the CBO said that shifting seniors to private plans would affect access to providers, a problem that many seniors are experiencing with Medicare Advantage plans now.
The TSCL survey found that, to improve Medicare's finances, seniors strongly support ramping up anti-fraud efforts, and better integration of care to reduce duplications of tests, services, and expensive imaging. What do you think? Take a poll. Visit TSCL's website at www.SeniorsLeague.org.
With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.
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