Among Older Adults, Medicare Will Decide Votes
With the presidential election looming, a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation examines the issues that seniors, who are more likely to vote than the population overall, view as most important. For people over the age of 50, Medicare nears the top of the list.
Compared to younger voters, senior voters expressed no more familiarity with either presidential nominee’s plans for Medicare, although a larger number of people have an idea of what President Obama would do for Medicare if reelected. Seniors did, however, express their views on premium support plans. Under these models, such as the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan, Medicare beneficiaries would no longer have a defined set of health benefits, but instead would receive a voucher to pay for health coverage. The voucher would be unlikely to keep pace with rising health care costs meaning people with Medicare—half of whom have annual incomes below $22,000—would pay more for less health security.
The report finds that almost three-fourths (74%) of older adults prefer to keep Medicare as is, rather than convert it into a premium support program. Across key demographic subgroups—including seniors living in rural and urban areas and seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans—the sentiment is the same. These findings reinforce those from an earlier Kaiser poll, which also found that a majority of seniors, regardless of political affiliation, do not want Medicare to change: 78% of senior voters said the current program works well.
While older voters are concerned about the federal deficit, most oppose cutting Medicare or Social Security in the name of reducing the nation’s deficit. Among those seniors who believe that the Medicare program must undergo some policy reform to remain sustainable, 78% approve of allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies in order to obtain lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare. Few seniors favor plans that would require Medicare beneficiaries to pay more out-of-pocket for health care.
Read the Kaiser Family Foundation report.
Under the Romney-Ryan Plan, Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs Would Go Up For People with Medicare
The Medicare plan proposed by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and supported by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, would raise out-of-pocket health care costs for Medicare beneficiaries. According to Strengthen Social Security, a coalition of 300 national organizations, these increased costs are effectively cuts to Social Security, as most Medicare beneficiaries depend on Social Security for the bulk of their income. Strengthen Social Security recently published state-specific fact sheets that outline the harmful effects of the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan on Social Security benefits.
On average, the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan would effectively cut Social Security benefits by 33% nationally in 2022, the year when the plan would go into effect. In New York and Florida, this cut would be even greater. Higher Medicare costs under the Ryan proposal would affect the Social Security benefits of two-thirds of the Medicare beneficiaries residing in New York and Florida. Other states like Kansas and Maine would see the same proportion of affected beneficiaries.
Read the Strengthen Social Security fact sheets.
During the Fall Open Enrollment Period, which spans October 15 to December 7, you have the option of changing your Medicare coverage and the way you receive your Medicare benefits. If you are thinking about enrolling in a Medicare private health plan, also known as a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, there are many questions you should consider when determining which plan will best serve your health care needs.
MA plans contract with Medicare and are paid a fixed amount to provide Medicare benefits to each of their enrollees. Private health plans—even those of the same type (e.g. Health Maintenance Organizations, or HMOs)—can have different restrictions and costs. Before you join an MA plan, make sure you understand that specific plan’s rules.
If you already have a Medicare private health plan and want to switch to another one, you should do so by calling 800-MEDICARE and not by disenrolling from your old plan.
Learn more about questions you should ask your doctor, friends and family members and the private plan you are considering at www.medicareinteractive.org, or call our helpline at 800-333-4114.
Yesterday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared a public health emergency for New York State. The announcement comes in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which has affected millions of people in the Northeast. As a result of the declaration, people with Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program will maintain access to services as New York recovers from the storm.
For Medicare beneficiaries living in emergency or disaster areas, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a brochure that explains how to access medical care and prescription drugs. Brochure topics include “Seeing doctors or other providers,” “Getting your prescription drugs,” “Paying your plan’s premium” and “Getting dialysis treatments.”
The Medicare Rights Center’s New York City office is up and running. If you have any Medicare-related questions, our helpline is ready to take your calls.
Call our helpline at 800-333-4114, Monday through Friday, 9 AM-5 PM EST.
Read the HHS press release.
Read the CMS brochure, “Getting Medical Care and Prescription Drugs in a Disaster or Emergency Area.”