- As Medicare’s Anniversary Approaches, the Fight for Health Care Continues
- Beware of a New Social Security Scam
On July 30, Medicare will turn 52 years old. As we honor this program that provides stable coverage to over 57 million older adults and individuals with disabilities, our nation stands at a crossroad. The Senate is poised to vote on health care reform proposals that could roll back important consumer protections provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), gut the Medicaid program and leave millions more uninsured, including people ages 50-64 who are not yet eligible for Medicare. Although Medicare is not the primary subject of the current health reform debate, Medicare would be harmed by these proposals, particularly the ones that would decimate Medicaid, which also provides vital cost-sharing assistance and services such as long-term care for 11 million people who also have Medicare.
“As Congress looks to strip health care from millions of people, Medicare has a long tradition of covering everyone who is eligible regardless of pre-existing conditions, all of whom are entitled to the same benefits” states Judith Stein, Executive Director and founder of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
In honor of Medicare’s 50th Anniversary in 2015, the Center compiled 50 Insights, available in our “Special Report — Medicare: Time to Renew, Not Retreat.” As we note in the introduction, Medicare has relieved families of worry and enhanced their quality of life, peace-of-mind, health and economic security. In short, Medicare is a bedrock program for our nation.
Regardless of the outcome of the current health reform debate, Medicare continues to be a target for some policymakers. For many years, House Speaker Ryan and others have supported turning Medicare either completely or partly into a “premium support,” or voucher, program that would very likely lead to people paying more for less coverage.
Many of the same people who want to decimate Medicaid want to undermine the Medicare program, using false claims that Medicare is “going broke” and therefore needs immediate, radical reforms. Any long-term funding challenges, though, can be addressed without fundamentally altering the program in ways that will shift additional costs on to beneficiaries, erode benefits and/or limit eligibility. Before asking anything more of Medicare beneficiaries, policymakers should address issues such as improperly inflated Medicare Advantage payments, and the lack of meaningful control on drug prices.
There are improvements that can and should be made to the program, including adding comprehensive oral health, audiology and vision services, and adding an out-of-pocket cap in traditional Medicare. There are also currently barriers to care in Medcare that the Center fights every day, such as hospital observation status, due process in appeals and implementation of the Jimmo settlement combating the “Improvement Standard” myth. Ultimately, Medicare should be expanded, not contracted.
As we work to make the Medicare program better, and fight off ill-advised efforts to destroy the broader health care system, let us take a moment to appreciate the national treasure that is the Medicare program.
The Office of Inspector General at the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently issued a fraud advisory about a new scam targeting beneficiaries. SSA has received reports from around the country about beneficiaries receiving calls from scammers impersonating SSA employees, saying the beneficiary is owed a cost of living increase. In order to get the increase, victims must give their personally identifying information such as name, date of birth, and Social Security numbers. Once they have this information, the scammers attempt to access the victim’s direct deposit information and may try to divert their social security benefits.
If you receive any communication that claims to be from SSA that seems suspicious, please contact your local Social Security office, or the toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213.
See the full fraud advisory at https://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-releases/july19-advisory.