Medicare Too Complex for Many Seniors
Medicare is playing a starring role in the presidential election. The 1965 law providing guaranteed healthcare to older Americans has become a battleground for the issue of whether Obamacare is good for the country and, more broadly, how the nation should rein in its soaring healthcare costs.
While Medicare may be starring in this political drama, it is in many ways a misunderstood actor on the national stage. The program that exists today is far different than it was in 1965, when former President Harry Truman became the nation’s first Medicare enrollee. And the pace of change has only accelerated in recent years, due not only to the health reform law itself but also to the explosion of new informational and medical technologies.
Already, many consumers are overwhelmed by the number of available Medicare insurance plans, the complexities within those plans, and the arduous homework needed to determine their prescription drug choices and out-of-pocket costs. Health reform supporters say the new law will eventually make it easier for consumers to understand Medicare and make sensible healthcare choices. But that goal is at least several years away. Until then, Medicare will become more complicated, not less.
Basic Medicare has Part A for hospital services and Part B for physician and outpatient expenses. Part C of Medicare came along in 1997 and provided a managed-care version of the program that was first called “Medicare+Choice.” It had a rocky history and evolved into today’s Medicare Advantage program. In 2006, a new prescription drug program took effect and became Part D of the program.