Politics have roughed up most of our attitudes towards health reform. Sometimes it is difficult to sort out what has changed, what seems to be improvement or expansion or cut in service or cost. As the reforms of 2010 move through the courts, we all might need ever greater concentration to keep an eye under which shell is the benefit and under which shell is the cut.
Some experts, fortunately, are keeping a close eye on the ever-shifting Medicare debate – and many of them are noting some of the improvements that have already been enacted.Dr. Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was interviewed by Paula Span of The New York Times back in January of this year, and he stressed the new opportunities for preventative care. One’s first meeting with a Medicare doctor, for example, is completely covered and is meant to establish a baseline personal history.
Moreover, the infamous ‘donut-hole’ concerning covered medications (that one is covered up to a certain amount of medicinal expenses, then covered at a lower rate for a while until enough personal money is spent that one is mostly covered) is shrinking. The ‘hole’ should be closed by 2020 by Dr. Berwick.
Ms. Span recently followed up on this story by pointing out a whopping $.76 benefit for 2012, as the average monthly premium for medicines drops by 3/4ths of a dollar in 2012 (from an average of $30.76 to $30) – the first drop since 2007, when Medicare ‘Part D’ came into effect. The expanding use of generic drugs cleared for Medicare use is one of the main reasons, as is the effort to allow competition among drug producers within the Medicare market.
Of course, as her articles point out, the ongoing recession-in-all-but-name continues to hurt older Americans (and non-whites) much more than others. And the national debt and the health-care costs of the next 50-odd years will surely continue to stress all Medicare budgets.
Nevertheless, the moments of benefit to Medicare recipients should be traced, studied, emulated, and expanded. Before the far right try to remove Medicare not for themselves but for those of the next generation (not likely to vote for them anyway).