If you’ve turned on a news program, gone online or opened a newspaper (remember those) in the past week or so, you probably have seen an article or op-ed on Medicare and what we should do to save it. The government sequester has caused a number of cuts that will affect beneficiaries and healthcare workers. And the problem is that most of the public has no idea. Let’s take a look at the problems at hand and why so many people are talking about Medicare reform on both the Left and Right.
· Doctors are getting paid less: Now that the cuts have gone through, doctors will receive two percent less in payments from Medicare. Most people over the age of 65 use Medicare as their primary healthcare system. This is bad news for doctors who already think Medicare pays them too little. In one study by the American Medical Association, 20 percent of doctors across the board limit the number of Medicare patients they have because Medicare’s paltry payments.
· There may be a delay in services: This is a big one for both healthcare employees and beneficiaries. The healthcare industry estimates that 200,000 people will lose their jobs because of the sequester. Although benefits won’t go down, patients can expect longer wait times and a reduction in other services offered by healthcare facilities.
· Other services will suffer as well: Take a look at this article from last year to see how Medicare reform affected small labs. The Federal Government is less able to spend money on research and equipment updates. Those labs in need of dire lab equipment repair and calibration services may have to make due as well because less money is paid out by Medicare. Finally, smaller labs – like those that work primarily with senior citizens – may have to shut down, given their smaller margins.
· Even if the cuts are reversed, what about tomorrow? This might be the scariest part of the Medicare discussion. Both sides admit that something must be done about Medicare as it’s not sustainable. People are living longer – albeit not more healthy – due to medical advances, there are fewer workers to support current and future retirees and healthcare costs continue to go up. This is not an issue that will just go by the wayside if these cuts go away. So if you hear Congress and the President congratulate one another on reversing the cuts to Medicare in the next few weeks, just know it won’t be the last you’ll hear about Medicare reform.