Tuesday, November 13, 2007

US revamps Medicare

Starting next week in the United States, those eligible for Medicare can begin enrolling in the optional drug plan for 2008, with a dizzying array of choices — and potential premium increases for 74% of those who currently have a stand-alone drug plan.

About 1.6 million low-income enrollees will be switched from their current plans to other insurers because premiums rose above a government benchmark.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people over 65 that has been in existence for more than 40 years in the United States. Congress added a prescription drug benefit, known as Part D, two years ago.

Although Part D is subsidized by the federal government, it is run by private companies, many of which have aggressively marketed their products.

It’s that time of year again when seniors who want to switch their drug plans have to sift through the fine print of stacks of documents.

There are 55 Medicare prescription drug plans along with thousands of other Medicare supplement programs for sale, according to the state Office for the Aging. When those choices are added to the need to coordinate drug coverage, many Medicare beneficiaries are faced with what the office called "a complex maze of choices.''

Medicare officials say that people can avoid premium increases next year: "In every state, people will be able to find a plan that costs less than $20 a month," says Herb Kuhn of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Therefore it pays for seniors to shop around.

The average monthly premium for a Medicare prescription drug plan will increase to $25 next year, a 13 percent increase, according to the federal government. The plans were created in 2005 to offer more coverage to the country’s 43 million Medicare customers who rely on Medicare for their health care.

In general, United States is opposed to any "socialized programme", yet they do have some “socialized” programmes . Some examples include fire protection, police services, garbage pick up, roads, parks, schools etc. But health care is not one of them. This health care system is broken and serves only private interests. It seems in the US system, the insurance companies have far too much power over decisions regarding a patients health care needs. The United States has the highest per capita health care spending in the world, with comparatively disappointing results compared to European models of health care.

One of the fundamental problem that the US faces is that the ratio of workers paying Medicare taxes to retirees drawing benefits is shrinking at the same time that the price of health care services per person is increasing. Currently there are 3.9 workers paying taxes into Medicare for every older American receiving services. By 2030, as the baby boom generation retires, that is projected to drop to 2.4 workers for each beneficiary. Thus financing the medicare is going to be a huge task.

According to the Census Bureau's 2005 Current Population Survey (CPS), there were 45.8 million uninsured individuals in 2004, or 15.7% of the civilian non-institutionalized population. Since virtually all individuals over age 65 are covered by Medicare, the uninsured are primarily adults under age 65 and children who do not have medical insurance.

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