Your Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update
Immigrants Help to Strengthen Medicare
New Report Details the Ways Immigrants Strengthen the Medicare Program
Ongoing dialogue about immigration reform renewed the debate over immigrants and access to earned benefits like Medicare. A recent report released by the Partnership for a New American Economy shows Medicare has been strengthened by immigrants.
Medicare’s different parts have multiple funding streams. Part A inpatient hospital insurance is the only part of Medicare that is largely covered by a trust fund. Most Medicare beneficiaries do not have to pay a monthly premium for Part A because they have contributed Part A payroll taxes during their working years. These payroll taxes are what primarily fund the Part A trust fund. According to recent estimates, the Part A trust fund will be solvent—meaning it will be able to pay fully on health claims—through 2030. If no changes are made, the trust fund would still be able to fund partial coverage of Part A services after 2030 but would not be able to meet its full obligations.
According to the report, since immigrants are largely younger (working-age) and have higher workforce participation, they provide a disproportionate benefit to the Medicare Part A trust fund. From 1996 to 2011, immigrants contributed $182.4 billion more to the trust fund than was spent on their benefits. On the other hand, Medicare spent $68.7 billion more on benefits for people who were American-born than American-born workers contributed to the trust fund during the same period. Based on that time period alone (1996-2011), the surplus generated by immigrants added three years of solvency to the trust fund.
Immigrants have contributed to making the Medicare program stronger, countering the mistaken belief that immigrants drain government-run programs. The report recommends the development of federal policies that encourage immigration, especially of younger people, as one means of continuing to strengthen the Medicare program.
Medicare to Start Covering Coordination of Care Services for Chronically Ill Beneficiaries
Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS) finalized a policy to begin paying Medicare physicians for non-face-to-face services intended to manage care for those with multiple, chronic conditions. CMS recently announced the proposed payment rate for these chronic care management services. According to CMS, in January, Medicare will begin paying doctors who coordinate the care of patients with two or more chronic conditions. Reporting on the proposed payment rule, the New York Times provided details on this new policy. Patients with chronic conditions who wish to have a doctor manage their care must sign up in writing, and their doctor will then draw up and help execute a plan to manage the patient’s chronic conditions. The doctor, or someone on the doctor’s staff, will also be available 24 hours a day and seven days a week to help with any “urgent” needs of the patient, related to their chronic condition. For each patient, the doctor will be paid $42 per month by Medicare to perform these services.
Care for chronically ill patients often requires a variety of specialists, procedures, and medications. Coordinating the care for these patients should benefit them considerably by streamlining the management of their condition and reducing medical errors. According to CMS, this policy should be cost-neutral for the Medicare program, since it will keep patients healthier and out of the hospital.
Volume 5, Issue 33
There are multiple ways to qualify for Medicare. The most common way is when you turn 65. When you turn 65, you become eligible for Medicare if:
- You collect or qualify to collect Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits; or
- You are a current US resident and either:
- A US citizen; or
- A permanent US resident having lived in the US for 5 continuous years before you apply for Medicare
If you are under 65, you qualify for Medicare if you are eligible for Medicare if you are a U.S. citizen or have your resident visa, have lived in the U.S. for five years in a row and:
- You have a disability and have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for more than 24 months;
- You have been diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) ; OR
- You have been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
A recent infographic by the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC) and Half in Ten campaign looks at the rate of poverty among older Americans. According to the infographic, 15 percent of seniors live in poverty in the US, and nearly half of all older adults—19.9 million—are economically vulnerable, meaning they live on income that is less than two times the supplemental poverty limit.
NSCLC and Half in Ten urge policy solutions that strengthen earned benefits like Medicare and Social Security. They conclude, “These policy solutions will not only help reduce senior poverty, but strengthen our nation’s economy for all.”