Medicare’s future: Rising Costs & your Quality of Care.

As the new year began, so did the federal government’s Medicare program.  This year, the goal of the new health care reform law is to reduce growth in Medicare spending, while at the same time improving benefits, and patient care.  However, analysts and experts alike are seeing trends of more government spending in order to provide the best possible care for our nations’ seniors.  Beginning this month, 77 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 will become Medicare-eligible at the rate of 1 every 8 seconds.  Clearly, the emphasis is for the government to slow its spending in order for the next generation to be able to afford health care for their aging parents and for themselves as well down the line.

Currently, the Medicare program is already in danger of becoming unsustainable in its capacity to cover costs.  For instance, baby boomers are now living longer than previous generations, which results in having not enough health professionals today to tend to their specific conditions or needs.  Perhaps more time and effort could have been spent on expanding the health workforce in that regard.  In addition, Medicare frauds are costing the government billions each year, adding to the burden of uncertainty.  While these trends are alarming, the new health initiatives are primed to combat it.  Such new laws in Medicare starting this year as part of the new health care reform includes the following:

  • Eliminate co-pays and other shared payments for preventive services, such as screenings for colon cancer, and mammograms and offer free annual checkups.
  • Gradually close by 2020 the “doughnut hole” gap between what Medicare provides and the full cost of prescription drugs.  Beneficiaries affected this year will receive a $250 tax-free rebate.
  • Reduce projected payment increases to hospitals and other providers and private insurance plans.

The new laws aims to help the Medicare system get back on its feet but only time will tell if they will be effective.  And perhaps one thing is for certain, which is the fact that more health professionals are needed to keep up with our aging baby boomer population.

Credit Source: Larry Bivins, Press-Gazette, Washington Bureau, January 10, 2011.

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