Medicare News Good for Consumers but Challenges Remain

Several news outlets are reporting this morning that, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare premiums will rise at a less than expected rate for next year.  CMS’ fact sheet can be found here.

This is good news for consumers, who are working hard to beat back potential cuts to the program, including raising the eligibility age and dramatic decreases in payments to doctors.  Consumer groups such as AARP, Families USA and the Medicare Rights Center are closely watching the workings of the federal debt super committee.  Members of the super committee are contemplating increasing Medicare cost sharing and limiting coverage, in an effort to find $1.2 trillion in savings over ten years.   

The Medicare program continues to enjoy high popularity.  A recent survey conducted by KRC Research shows that Medicare Part D receives especially good marks from consumers.  A survey of 992 Medicare beneficiaries revealed that 88% are satisfied with the program and an even greater percentage feel that Part D gives them greater peace of mind. 

Big challenges remain for consumers, especially around protecting access to Medicare benefits in the face of federal deficits.  They are also challenged by obtaining timely and accurate information about changes to the program.  For example, many consumers are unaware that the open enrollment period for Part D began on October 15 and that there are new reduced out-of-pocket costs for persons in the infamous ‘donut hole’.  This signals a need for public and private institutions to do a better job at informing consumers.

Additional news articles on Medicare premiums can be found here and here.

-Jaime Venditti, 10/29/11