Medicare In An Election Year
To help those with Medicare, their families and friends and future Medicare beneficiaries understand policymakers’ positions on the Medicare program, the Medicare Rights Center has compiled “Five Medicare Questions for Candidates.”
Individuals can direct these questions at Presidential, Congressional and Senatorial candidates to inquire how the policies they support will affect Medicare beneficiaries. Individuals can modify the document as they wish and submit the questions by mail or e-mail, or ask them over the phone or in-person. Many of the questions focus on the future of the Medicare program and the benefits and coverage that will be available to beneficiaries. These issues currently sit at the center of the deficit-reduction and budget debates.
Many proposals under consideration would save the government money by shifting costs onto Medicare beneficiaries, increasing the out-of-pocket health care expenses of older adults and those with disabilities.
For example, the budget authored by Representative Paul Ryan and recently approved by the House of Representatives would convert Medicare into a voucher system, under which beneficiaries would receive a defined contribution from the government to buy health coverage. The House budget would cap the amount of Medicare spending at a rate that would not reflect actual increases in the cost of health care overall. As a result, over time, the voucher would be insufficient to purchase health coverage as good as that which Medicare currently provides to beneficiaries.
Other questions focus not only on how candidates plan to preserve Medicare, but also on how they plan to improve the program, for example by reducing the cost of coverage for beneficiaries. People with Medicare already spend 15 percent of their household incomes on health care, five times as much as the non-Medicare population. Moreover, half of all people with Medicare have annual incomes of less than $25,000. For a population with high health care needs, policymakers must examine how they can improve Medicare, while making the benefit more affordable.
“We encourage everyone to ask tough questions of those who hold the future of Medicare—and therefore of our health and retirement security—in their hands,” says Joe Baker, president of Medicare Rights. “It is important to know how prospective lawmakers intend to change programs that millions of people depend on.”
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