Tuesday, October 20, 2009


For shame, NY Times, For shame.

Here's the headline: "Medicare Premiums to Rise 15 Percent as Costs Jump." A lot of us elders swallowed hard with that. But here's the rest of the story:

The basic Medicare premium will shoot up next year by 15 percent, to $110.50 a month, federal officials said Monday.

The increase means that monthly premiums would top $100 for the first time — - a stark indication of the rise in medical costs that is driving the debate in Congress about a broad overhaul of the health care system.

About 12 million people, or 27 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, will have to pay higher premiums. The other 73 percent will be shielded from the increase because, under federal law, their Medicare premiums cannot go up more than the increase in their Social Security benefits.

And Social Security officials announced last week that there would be no increase in Social Security benefits in 2010 because inflation had been extremely low. ...

Among those who face higher premiums next year are new Medicare beneficiaries, high-income people and those whose Medicare premiums are paid by Medicaid. Premiums can be as high as $353.60 a month, or more than $4,200 a year, for Medicare beneficiaries who file tax returns with adjusted gross income greater than $214,000 for an individual or $428,000 for a couple.

My mother, a tough old elder at 90, would probably hyperventilate if she had read that headline. Fortunately for her, she thinks the internet is evil and she lives in Wisconsin, so, God willing, she hasn't seen it yet, and probably won't, because as far as I know she is not a NY Times junkie. But there are plenty of people aged 65 to 75 who are not so timid and who do use the internet, and I'm sure they are scared to death, especially if they are on fixed incomes and their retirement accounts have been decimated by the wholesale rape of the financial markets by the banksters.

But let's unpack the story a little. I'm 63. If I took early Social Security, I would get about $2100 per month, but I wouldn't qualify for Medicare for another 21+ months. If I hold off to age 66.5 (yes, I'm in that new bracket), I would get several hundred dollars more per month, but I'd be a new beneficiary at age 65 (so far that requirement hasn't changed), so, at least according to this article, I'd have to pay $110.50 per month for my Medicare policy at age 65. Right now, the group health insurance plan I have (for which I pay because I'm not a full-time worker, but my employer is willing to keep me on the company group plan because I cannot get a private plan) is $1200 a month. It's still a bargain because there is no alternative for me.

Most of the people already on Medicare will not have to pay higher premiums, but some will.

The people who will pay more markedly more for Medicare are those who earn more than $214,00 per year (filing single) or $428,000 (filing as a couple), and the monthly premium is $353.60 a month, still about a quarter of what I pay.

Big whoop.

The important point is that most Medicare beneficiaries will not pay more for their policies next year, that freakin' headline notwithstanding.

Must have been some really fine doughnuts delivered to the Times newsroom yesterday, courtesy of the insurance lobby.

Like I said:

For shame.

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Anonymous Paula said...

Diane: I'm with you on this one. That headline was outrageous!

You might be interested in something I wrote for my own blog and rewrote for KevinMD, setting the record straight for those scared out of their socks over all they'll lose if this country revamps health care:

It drew a certain amount of fire from docs, as expected. It was really meant for patients, especially those who fell for the hype from Glenn Beck et al, who told them the world was about to come to an end, thanks to health care reform (or Obama, whatever).

Keep up the good work, explaining the complex issues.


3:20 PM  

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