Beware high out-of-pocket costs for Medicare recipients

The Seattle Times, Nov. 18, 2010

Froma Harrop’s column does a disservice to the deficit-reduction discussion by failing to mention that the co-chairs’ proposal would require Medicare recipients to pay more out-of-pocket costs, while reducing their benefits [“Give deficit plan a chance, liberals,” Opinion, Nov. 17]. Such barriers to care result in poorer health outcomes and increased suffering.

The typical Medicare beneficiary, already on low income, pays 15 percent of it on medical care, whereas health-policy experts consider spending more than 10 percent of income on health care as a real hardship, even for the average American family. Harrop asks Aunt Mary, a liberal scrambling to live on Social Security, to play her part in reducing our deficit by accepting the “hard choice” to pay more for her heart medications.

Skyrocketing health-care costs are a major component of our deficit and the new health-care legislation does little to change this trajectory. The best way to decrease the deficit would be to bring our health-care spending under control by enacting an improved and expanded Medicare for all, an equitable system similar to the rest of the industrialized world, where medical costs are half what we spend, with improved quality of care.

— David McLanahan, board member, Physician for a Nation Health Program, Western Washington Chapter, Seattle