As the president and Congress start a new round of budget negotiations, harmful changes to Medicare continue to be on the table. AARP believes there are better ways to strengthen Medicare than cutting benefits or forcing seniors to pay higher premiums, deductibles or copays.
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One proposal would charge Medicare patients new copays for lab tests and home health services. Such proposals would be harmful to Medicare patients who, already paying copays, premiums and deductibles for their doctor, hospital and prescription coverage, spend on average 20 percent of their income on out-of-pocket costs.
The idea of charging copays on lab visits is based on the faulty notion that seniors will get fewer lab tests if they are forced to pay for them. This theory falls flat because physicians are the ones who order lab tests. Seniors who can’t afford the copay risk going without diagnosis and treatment, which would drive up Medicare costs.
Another shortsighted proposal, to require people who are prescribed home health services to pay copays, would do nothing to reduce Medicare costs. More likely, it would increase costs because people who can’t afford the copays could end up returning to the hospital. Because one of the drivers of Medicare costs is unplanned hospital readmissions, patients should be encouraged to get proper follow-up care, not penalized for following their doctors’ orders.
AARP is fighting for responsible solutions to keep Medicare strong, like clamping down on drug companies’ high prices, improving care coordination, and cutting waste, fraud and inefficiency.
Make your voice heard, too.
- Protect Social Security and Medicare during budget debates
- Don’t be fooled: Social Security not to blame for budget woes
- Find great volunteer opportunities in your community
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