New report from Medicare Rights Center reveals confusion common among beneficiaries

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

medicare-trendsThe Medicare Rights Center, a national, nonprofit consumer service organization, just released  its first report analyzing the top issues facing people who called its national consumer help line in 2012.

Medicare Trends and Recommendations: An Analysis of 2012 Call Data from the Medicare Rights Center’s National Helpline,” details stories representative of the problems faced by older adults, their families, and those caring for them.

According to a press release, three major trends emerged from more than 14,000 questions fielded on the helpline:

  • Affording coverage and care: Half of all Medicare beneficiaries live on less than $23,500 a year, yet Medicare households devote 14 percent of their budgets to health care, compared with just 5 percent among non-Medicare households.
  • Transitioning into the Medicare program: Insufficient or inaccurate information can lead to late enrollment penalties, gaps in coverage, strained finances and delayed treatment for many people who are newly eligible for Medicare.
  • Appealing denials of coverage: The lack of clear information, inefficient appeals systems, and changing coverage rules from year to year present barriers to accessing needed medical care.

The report includes policy recommendations to expand access, ease the enrollment process, improve communication and streamline the appeals processes.

Reporters covering Medicare issues can look to these trends as a starting point for coverage in their communities. How much do older adults, or those about to cross that threshold, know about their rights, for example. How much of their household budget goes towards premiums or copays? Do they understand the appeals process? Are there specific problems that keep occurring in certain cities, or with certain providers?

For a refresher course on Medicare, take a look at our Dec 18 webcast with Rosemary Gibson, Senior Advisor, the Hastings Center and Stacey Sanders, Federal Policy Director at the Medicare Rights Center.

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