Fifty-six percent of older adults think more needs to be invested in Medicare in order to respond more quickly and effectively to a healthcare crisis like COVID-19, according to a recent survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL).
“Boosting funding for Medicare is one of the most important issues for older voters this year,” says Mary Johnson, a Medicare, and Social Security policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League.
Medicare-age adults 65 and up, and those who are residents of nursing homes are at especially high risk of complications and death from the COVID-19 coronavirus. About 90% of the participants of the new survey, which was conducted online this summer, are Medicare beneficiaries.
Survey response indicates support for strengthening program funding versus no change, or prioritizing healthcare delivery through private insurance plans over traditional Medicare. Only 23% of survey participants think that priority should be placed on private insurance plans in order to reduce reliance on federal spending and the need to raise taxes, and just 21% think the current level of spending is “about right because we could not have anticipated the scope of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Medicare has been subject to automatic 2% spending cuts since 2014, enacted as a provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Providers continue to bill Medicare in the normal way, but they are only paid 98 cents on the dollar. According to a FAQ from the House Committee on the Budget, the Medicare spending cut for the government’s fiscal year 2021, which starts October 1, 2020, will reduce spending by $16.2 billion.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES Act) of 2020, however, suspended the automatic Medicare cuts from taking effect between May 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. “But the legislation extended cuts for an additional year beyond the current expiration date,” Johnson notes. “That will mean that Medicare and Medicaid will continue to be subject to automatic cuts until 2030, 10 more years.”
The Senior Citizens League said in a statement announcing the survey results it believes that the ongoing Medicare cuts have weakened America’s ability to respond to national emergencies like COVID-19. It has exacerbated a national healthcare worker shortage—including doctors and nurses, as well as the capacity of the nation’s hospitals to deal with the sudden large influx of patients generated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many hospitals, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes have required additional federal and state assistance as well as donations from the public, to acquire personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, and gloves.
The Senior Citizens League, one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors’ groups, supports legislation that would help lower both taxpayer and Medicare beneficiary costs, including a House and Senate bill that would prohibit surprise medical bills, allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, and cap out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs for beneficiaries. To learn more, visit http://www.SeniorsLeague.org.