Your Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update
More Than 150,000 Say No to Further Means Testing Medicare
Advocates Join Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to Speak Against Medicare Benefit Cuts
This week, US Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) co-hosted a telephone press conference call with the Medicare Rights Center and Social Security Works releasing more than 150,000 petition signatures against means testing Medicare. Alliance for Retired Americans activist Charlie Hogan explained on the call what Medicare benefit cuts, including further means testing premiums, would mean for retirees in America and nationwide.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky explained that her constituents and most Americans receiving Medicare are in no position financially to afford further means testing of the program. She noted “At least one in five seniors are already cutting back on health care because they cannot afford it.”
Charlie Hogan, Alliance for Retired Americans member and President of AFSCME Retiree sub-chapter 161 from Chicago said, “If we didn’t have Medicare, if we didn’t have insurance at work, we’d lose our homes, we’d lose everything.” Mr. Hogan, a veteran, stressed that the retirees of today and tomorrow contributed to our Medicare and Social Security. These programs are an earned benefit and a promise that should not be broken.
Stacy Sanders, Federal Policy Director for the Medicare Rights Center explained three important, and often misunderstood, facts about further means testing Medicare:
- Medicare is already means-tested. In other words, wealthy Medicare beneficiaries are already paying more for their Medicare premiums;
- Further means testing means higher health care costs for the middle class; and
- More means testing would undermine the universality and integrity of Medicare.
Dr. Ben Veghte, Research Director for Social Security Works, pointed out that the average senior’s Social Security benefits are equivalent to a minimum wage income, about $15,000/year. He also said, “Indirectly, Social Security benefits have been cut by rising out-of-pocket health care costs over the last two decades. Today, out-of-pocket health care costs eat up over a third of the Social Security check of the average senior.”
Senate Hearing Examines Poverty Among Older Adults
The Senate Special Committee on Aging recently held a hearing titled, “Income Security and the Elderly: Securing Gains made in the War on Poverty.” The witnesses included members of Catholic Charities of Maine, the National Women’s Law Center, the US Government Accountability Office, and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Their testimony, along with the testimony of Senator Collins and Senator Nelson, made clear the challenges that many seniors face on a daily basis. They highlighted the importance of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in lifting many seniors out of poverty.
Many seniors’ sole source of income is Social Security. Even with this, many have trouble affording food, rent, and other necessities. Medicare and Medicaid help many seniors stretch incomes that are simply too low, but many still must choose between food and medication or rent and properly managing their chronic conditions. Cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits would negatively impact seniors struggling to make ends meet. Furthermore, any reductions in these benefits would disproportionately affect women and minorities.
Volume 5, Issue 11
Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) help pay your Medicare costs if you have limited finances. There are three main programs, and each has different income eligibility limits:
- Qualifying Individual (QI) Program: Pays for Medicare’s Part B premium
- Specified Low-income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB): Pays for Medicare’s Part B premium
- Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB): Pays for Medicare Part A and B premiums, deductibles and coinsurances or co-pays
Each state sets its own income and asset eligibility levels. Contact your local Medicaid office, or your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to find out if you meet the financial requirements.
Keep in mind that an MSP only helps with your health costs. However, if you qualify for an MSP, you automatically qualify for Extra Help, a federal program that helps with your Part D prescription drug costs.
The Qualified Individual (QI) Program is a critical benefit that covers the full cost of the Medicare Part B premium for older adults and people with disabilities with very low incomes and limited assets. Right now, QI is authorized to receive funding through March 31, 2014, and only Congress can continue the funding. Recent legislation being considered by Congress to make improvements to the Medicare program provides a chance to make QI permanent and ensure that those who benefit from the program will no longer run the risk of losing it.
A recent infographic released by Families USA takes a look at the importance of the QI benefit by state. The infographic details the number of people receiving QI and the savings it secures for this vulnerable population.