(Shameless Plug # 32)
Dollars and Cents is the true reason for the changes in the present Medicare system. A January 4, 2016 article from the PBS News Hour talk about reasons for these changes. The author, Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar, stated, “Grandma’s Medicare usually just paid the bills as they came in. Today, the nation’s flagship health-care program is seeking better ways to balance cost, quality and access.” (Alonzo-Zaldivar, 2016). Many Medicare recipients remember a much simpler time, and want their experience to rival or surpass that of the previous generation. Several Medicare recipients feel just the opposite. They see Medicare as a regressive and “unfair” entity that appears to punish people who obtain Medicare. The changes are due to several circumstances. I will name just a few but many situations have placed the Medicare industry in a difficult position. 2007-08 saw a massive financial drain that was dubbed the “Great Recession” by many. Shortly after, in 2009, America saw a simultaneous job crisis. Over 2.8 million jobs began to hemorrhage in 2008 and the crisis only spiraled. Finally slowing in 2015, by then close to 7 million people were out of work. The lack of work, means lack of revenue for the Medicare industry. The system has to borrow from future reserves to pay for present costs.
The cost of care has become more expensive and people are living longer life-spans. The baby boomer generation is also turning 65 at an enormous rate for an extended period of time is a fact that puts both and immediate and long-term drain on the Medicare system. We can also point to the housing crisis that has hurt the financial strength of the Medicare recipient. The person may have counted on the asset to appreciate and offer them addition income during retirement. Now they have had to contend with a plunging housing market, stock market tantrums that they felt forced to participate in and a rise in overall costs of living. Many Medicare recipients only receive a small monthly fixed income from social security and do not have enough income to cover their monthly bills after the part B premium is deducted ($121.80 in 2016), if you make $85,000.00 or less. The premium is raised in you have more income. See the hyperlink to determine part B premium charge in 2016, based on income. An adjustment that causes the increase based on income is called the IRMA (Income Related Monthly Adjustment).
The face of Medicare decided to change, but did not do the best job communicating that change to its members and future members. 1-800-MEDICARE has a Face Book page and Medicare.gov are great sites, but todays present Medicare population is not wholly comfortable with using such technology and consequently become frustrated with the process.
To all Medicare recipients trying to get answers to the riddles of Medicare, I know it is difficult. Please understand that learning the process by having people to help you navigate it is essential.
If retiring, contact your Human Resources department or your benefits unit at the job. If already retired contact 1-800-MEDICARE or the sales agent that sold you the Medicare Advantage plan you are in. You can also consult SHIP counselors, senior center directors, and social workers to help you. If you cannot get help from one resource to your satisfaction, look for another. Again, I know it can be a pain but it can be more painful if not done. Yes, you have to take more charge of your own health and future. It will not be done for you as it was in the past.
Use tools like the Department of Aging, often located in your town directory or at your town hall or via a local telephone number. You can research different methods.
Having to do it yourself, can be frustrating, but knowing it will help you to better understand the changes that are taking place in the Medicare industry. You do have a choice. Understand what you are paying for and realize that Medicare will never be as it was. Medicare is changing in response to the multitude of dilemmas it is facing.