Is the Government About to Take Away Your Medicare?
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Frequently Asked Questions
To understand where Medicare might be going in the future, it helps to know a little bit about its past. The history of Medicare can be traced all the way back to the mid-1940's, but Medicare as we know it today didn't become national law until 1965. It took those two decades for politicians to agree that seniors, who have worked hard all their lives, shouldn't be left out in the cold as their medical expenses increase with age. Today, more than 55 million senior citizens age 65 and older have the majority of their healthcare costs provided for by Medicare Parts A and B.
But what will happen to Medicare in the years to come? The recent election cycle has some worried that politicians will try their hardest to completely eliminate Medicare in favor of a combination of government vouchers and private health insurance options. But is this approach fiscally sound for both government and senior citizens? How realistic is the idea that the current administration can eliminate the Medicare program? And what will happen to seniors who depend on Medicare in order to remain healthy? Right now, the situation is uncomfortably uncertain. But even in the worst case scenario, there are steps you can take to secure medical benefits during your golden years.
In the 2015 federal budget, just under 28% of total spending went to pay for Medicare health costs for seniors. To put that in context, the US government spent as much on healthcare for seniors as it did for military spending, Food Assistance Programs, Unemployment, Education, Energy, Housing, and International Affairs combined. Due to this large annual expense, some lawmakers are afraid that the government will go bankrupt if they don't do anything to reduce these costs. Despite the fact that certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have guaranteed Medicare solvency for at least another 10 years, those same lawmakers think that getting rid of it sooner rather than later would be better for the country as a whole.
Currently, there is a vague plan in the works known as "Premium Support". Once Medicare is dismantled and seniors are no longer eligible to receive medical benefits from the government, they will receive a government-issued voucher designed to help them purchase private health insurance instead.
Some politicians believe that putting more senior citizens in the pool of private health insurance recipients will lower medical costs for seniors. There is some evidence of this based on the wide popularity of Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans. These are private health insurance plans which include all of the medical benefits of Original Medicare, while also giving seniors the options to add dental, vision, and/or prescription drug coverage. Although these plans can sometimes come with hefty monthly premiums, it can save seniors money when compared to paying 100% out-of-pocket for their medical care.
Likewise, Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans also help seniors save money. These plans provide low-cost medical benefits to cover the gaps in Original Medicare, all for a relatively affordable monthly premium. But they do not provide Medicare benefits in and of themselves, nor do they offer supplemental additions such as vision or dental. As of right now, it is unclear whether Medigap insurance providers will pick up the slack and expand benefits to seniors in the event that Medicare becomes reduced or eliminated. But there is a precedent of Medigap providers working with the government to make sure seniors receive the medical benefits they need; therefore, it would not be surprising to see Medigap insurance companies moving farther in that direction should the need arise.
There have been plenty of attempts to repeal or dramatically change medicare in the past. However, Medicare is extremely popular among one of America's largest and most influential voting blocs: senior citizens. Americans age 60 and over vote the most frequently, and in the largest numbers. Many American politicians have seen their careers come to a sudden end for trying to pass Anti-Medicare legislation. If this trend continues, seniors will still maintain the power to influence their representatives in ways that are favorable to Medicare's survival.
Also, the biggest push to dismantle Medicare is currently only coming from a minority of representatives in Congress. The executive and judicial branches aren't exactly mustering a deluge of support for the plan. This lack of passionate support from both voters and 2 of 3 branches of government might be what Medicare needs in order to survive.
You can help secure your Medicare benefits by enrolling in Medicare as soon as possible. If anti-Medicare legislation passes, seniors who attempt to enroll in Medicare after a certain year may be ineligible; however, if you enroll before the cut-off date, or if you are already enrolled, you may be guaranteed benefits for the rest of your life.
Next - and most importantly - consider investing in a Medicare supplement (Medigap) insurance plan. There's no telling how much more expensive or extensive the current gaps in Medicare will become in the face of future reforms. Medigap insurance plans are designed with these gaps in mind so that seniors can get the health benefits they need for a low monthly premium. Protect your health and your savings by considering a Medigap insurance plan today. We'll even help you shop around and find the most affordable deal near you.
Lastly, exercise your right to vote. Voting out politicians who promise to pass Anti-Medicare legislation is one of the simplest ways to keep the program alive. And if you think legislation might be passed before the next election cycle, then contact your representatives and let them know that you don't want Medicare to be dismantled. Despite the technological age we're living in, classic communication methods (such as hand-written letters and phone calls) are the most effective ways of getting your representative's attention.
All 10 available Medicare Supplement Plans are standardized by Medicare - this means that each plan offers identical benefits, regardless of where you live or what company is handling your policy. Therefore, the only difference is in price. And the best way to get the best price is to compare plans online and save!
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