Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Big Squeeze

Anticipated changes in Medicare, the (almost) universal health care coverage for those over 65, are as follows.

Part B premiums increase by $5 to $93.50/month. If your income exceeds $80,000 per year you will pay a higher premium.

Part A remains "free".

Part A deductible increases to $912. Part B deductible to $131.

Part D, the so-called drug benefit, is still being hashed out and many carriers that offered Part D plans have revamped their benefit structure & pricing.

These increases, while nominal (about 5.6%) are only part of the story. The other side is the reduction in government spending for Medicare. In other words, the new Medicare budget (if passed by congress) will reduce spending by $2.5B in 2007.

So what?

A reduction in spending translates into lower reimbursement to Medicare providers. Lower reimbursement means doctors will generally agree to see fewer Medicare patients making access even more difficult than it is now.

Bottom line?

All of us who earn more in 2007 than in 2006 will pay more in taxes. Medicare beneficiaries will pay a higher premium for Part B, pay a higher premium for Medicare supplemental coverage, pay more out of pocket when they receive services and providers will receive less in 2007 for the same services they provided at a higher rate in 2006.

So tell me. Why do folks think a universal health care system is a good idea?
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