Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Medicare K-O: A Cost and Budget One-Two Punch

Eileen Alt Powell of the Associated Press brings us info on the study released Tuesday by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The study that holds ominous news for future retirees as well as others who reply on Medicare:

The government currently estimates an individual's costs for Medicare premiums, co-payments and other cost-sharing at about $3,800 a year for a single person and $7,600 for a couple. Add to that $500 per person for dental care, eye glasses, hearing aids and other items not covered by Medicare.

To cover such costs in the decades most baby boomers and Generation Xers will live after quitting their jobs, an individual needs to go into retirement with some $102,000 earmarked just for health care coverage, the center estimated. A couple needs about $206,000.

Baby boomers come from the generation born between 1946 and 1964; Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1974.
$102,000 just for health care coverage? For many people, that is a truly daunting number. The study goes on to graph these expenses against the average savings balance of approximately $60,000 in most households approaching retirement. That is the first punch to the gut.

To complicate matters even more, let us turn our eyes towards Medical News Today, where Robert M. Hayes, President of the Medicare Rights Center, issues a warning about the effect of President Bush's budget cuts on Medicare. Those budget cuts deliver the second part of "the old one-two:"
The proposals to tie Medicare payments to hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to measures of quality and efficiency are worthy of consideration but are completely unworkable in the context of the drastic, across-the-board payment cuts included in the President's budget. Paradoxically, the President's budget allows insurance companies to continue to bilk Medicare, even though the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has concluded that these private Medicare health plans are overpaid.
Measurements and standards are extremely important if we are to get a grip on the out of control state of health care costs, but Hayes' point is worth considering. How do we implement new standards of practice with no money to implement them? How do we manage to afford standards if we continue to overpay for the services we have?

SOURCE: "Health Costs Loom Large for Retirees" 02/18/08
SOURCE: "President Bush Puts Health Of Americans With Medicare In Jeopardy While Overpaying Medicare Private Insurers" 02/18/08
photo courtesy of Andre Malerba: AMPhoto, used under this Creative Commons license

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