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Hidden Costs For Seniors In Senate Bill

Discreetly tucked away in the New York Times Prescriptions Blog:

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., left, holds up the gavel he used as speaker pro tempore when Medicare passed in 1965, during a news conference on seniors and health care reform with Speaker of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

For Seniors, Hidden Costs in a Senate Bill

By Milt Freudenheim

October 20, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee has quietly recommended that millions elderly Americans who buy Medigap plans be charged new co-pays for doctor’s visits starting in 2015.

Consumer advocates predict the changes, proposed in the committee’s 1,500-page health care bill, will meet stiff opposition from lobbyists for seniors as the final version of the legislation takes shape.

Traditional Medicare pays about 60 percent, on average, of enrollees’ medical bills. Millions of enrollees buy Medigap insurance plans that offer complete “first dollar” coverage on some of the most expensive features, picking up all of what the patient would otherwise have to pay out of pocket.

“Seniors really like ‘first dollar’ coverage,” said Jim Firman, president of the National Council on Aging, a consumer advocacy group. “They don’t want to deal with extra paperwork and arguments over bills.”

The new co-pays are intended to push elderly patients to think twice before consulting their doctors. Some studies have found that Medigap policyholders use at least 25 percent more health care services than the generally lower-income Medicare enrollees who do not have Medigap policies.

Joseph Newhouse, an economist at Harvard University, said there was no “real evidence” that people over 65 would pass up needed care if they faced co-pays.

“Most seniors don’t go to running to the doctor unless they have a reason or are sent there,” said Maria Freese, director of government relations at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, an advocacy group. “For lower income people, even a nominal co-pay does cause them to forgo benefits,” she said.

Mr. Firman favors alerting enrollees to the real costs of Medicare-covered treatments, but as for the co-pay proposal, he said, “I think the consumer backlash to co-pays will be significant. Everybody is worried about seniors anyway. My guess is that the juice isn’t worth the political squeeze.”

Lest we forget, the Reagan catastrophic healthcare reform legislation was repealed once seniors and the AARP discovered that it might require the richest participants to pay up to $560 for their yearly deductible.

How times have changed.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Hidden Costs For Seniors In Senate Bill”

  1. canary says:

    Saw a new AARP ad during commercial on FOX. It’s a supplementary
    insurance because they say medicare leaves the elderly with 20% of the bill. They bragged they were the only ones who had this. What bothered me was their 60’s hippies theme throughout. Don’t you want to be “free” like you were in the 60’s. Showing old shots of hippies. With AARP health insurance now you can afford go back to living a “free” life, like you did when you were hippies. lol.

    • proreason says:

      There are hundreds of medigap policies for seniors.

      The one type AARP doesn’t have is the Aadvantage Plan. That’s the one that is the best deal, and about 20% of seniors have it.

      So Obamy is killing it.

      As a payoff to the AARP, so they can convince seniors to buy their shit they do offer.

    • canary says:

      AARP’s lower rates are a lie, which means they do not care for the elderly, but take advantage of them.

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