MEDICARE: Seniors Spend 19% of Income on Health Care
Senior citizens will spend an average of $2,400, or 19% of their incomes, on health care this year, according to a new report from the AARP. That amount includes out-of-pocket expenses not covered by Medicare, Medicare premiums, deductibles and co- payments. The figure does not include home health care or long term nursing care expenses. Besides premiums, seniors spend the most on prescription drugs, accounting for 17% of their out-of-pocket expenses. Even seniors with Medigap insurance will spend an average of $3,250 in out-of-pocket expenses. The study expects Medicare HMO enrollees to pay $1,630, partly because they generally don't purchase Medigap coverage (McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 12/9). David Gross, the study's lead author, said, "Although Medicare provides critically important health insurance for older Americans, its coverage is not always comprehensive" (Julien, Hartford Courant, 12/9).
A Campaign Hot Button
The Wall Street Journal reports that the study "is likely to add fuel to the debate over whether Medicare ... should offer a prescription drug benefit." Democratic presidential candidates Vice President Al Gore and former Senator Bill Bradley jumped on the opportunity. Bradley, whose health plan provides seniors with extensive drug coverage, said that the study "underscores why my health care plan is bolder than Al Gore's." Gore's spokesperson Chris Lehane countered, saying that "many beneficiaries wouldn't be helped by Mr. Bradley's plan because of its $500 deductible" (12/9).