Half of Seniors Risk Less Coverage As Result of Medicare Law

Half of America's seniors and people with disabilities are at risk of losing some health benefits as a result of the new Medicare law, according to a new analysis of the law and the Bush Administration's proposed regulations implementing it.

A special report released by the health care consumer group Families USA found that under the new Medicare law, seniors and people with disabilities may lose drug coverage altogether, lose access to needed drugs, have higher out-of-pocket costs for their medicines, find their retiree coverage scaled back, or enjoy fewer consumer protections if they are in managed care plans. As a result, seniors will experience temporary or long-term reductions in care that is vital to their health, the report concludes.

Those at risk of being worse off include:

  • The 6.4 million so-called "dual eligibles," those whose incomes are low enough to qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. This group will lose their current drug coverage provided by Medicaid on December 31, 2005. By then they will have to have enrolled in the Medicare drug program or risk a gap in coverage. They also may pay more for their drugs under Medicare and some drugs they currently take may not be covered.
  • The 13 million retirees who now have drug coverage from their previous employers -- coverage that is generally far better than the Medicare plan coverage. These retirees are at risk of losing significant coverage, or of paying more for what they have now, or both. Employers will receive a subsidy to encourage them to keep drug coverage for their retirees, but under the Medicare law they will be able to reduce coverage and shift more costs to retirees and still get the subsidy.
  • The 4.7 million seniors currently enrolled in Medicare Managed Care Plans, who will receive fewer protections under the new Medicare law than they have today.

To download a copy of the full report, go to: https://www.familiesusa.org/site/DocServer?docID=5281