Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Medicare premiums hike

Because we judge social actions by their effect on the least of these -- the poor, sick and oppressed -- we must condemn the Bush administration's decision to substantially raise the cost of medical care for the some of the neediest Americans. The Los Angeles Times reports:

In the largest increase in the history of Medicare, insurance premiums paid by elderly and disabled patients for routine care will rise 17% next year, the Bush administration said

The premium increases announced late in the afternoon as the capital emptied for the three-day Labor Day weekend and Republicans wrapped up a jubilant week at their convention in New York - would affect nearly all of the 41.8 million beneficiaries of Medicare.

The boost from $66.60 to $78.20 a month is the largest increase in the program's 40-year history. The premiums are for Medicare Part B, which provides Medicare patients with coverage for physician services, outpatient hospital care, certain home health services and durable medical equipment.

In announcing the $11.60-a-month increase, the government said the higher premiums reflected general growth in healthcare costs, higher payments to doctors and Medicare modernization.

"The new premiums reflect an enhanced Medicare that is providing seniors and people with disabilities with strengthened access to physician services and new preventive benefits," said Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Advocates for elderly and disabled beneficiaries said the extra costs would burden many of those who rely on the program. "This is going to make it even harder for a lot of older Americans to make ends meet," said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center. "Already there are a lot of older people who are teetering on the edge of poverty."

Critics pounced on both the timing and content of the administration's announcement, which seemed designed to garner as little publicity as possible.


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