Where have you gone Claude Pepper?

Claude_Denson_PepperBy The Old Man Sitting on the Green Bench

Last April our state became the third most populated state.  Seniors, those people over age 65, compose 18.7% of the state’s population that makes us the state with the highest percentage of seniors in the nation.  The population of seniors is projected to double in the coming years.  There are counties now that have a senior population is excess of 30%.  Seniors have a variety of different needs.

Most seniors are highly dependent on their monthly social security check which currently is slightly less than $1.300 per month on average.  The fact that the social security trust fund will be emptied in approximately 15 years has been tossed around like last week’s fish wrapper.  Yet no one has stepped up with a viable set of proposals to fix this coming train wreck.  The result of the trust fund being emptied will mean that the benefits the fund pays will be reduced by 23%.  In today’s dollars that means the average beneficiary would receive less than $1,000 per month.

Most seniors rely on Medicare for health insurance and it is good as far as it goes.  As almost everyone knows there are significant problems with Medicare. These are a few of the issues with the program.

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which is Part C, are very popular in Florida.  These plans are private insurance which replaces the beneficiaries Medicare with the company’s product.  In south Florida it is estimated that about 60% of people on Medicare use a MA on the west coast of our state it’s estimated about 50% use an MA.  Nationwide about 30% of Medicare beneficiaries use an MA.  Certainly most of the plans do an outstanding job of addressing the needs of their customers.  Here is one issue that confronts individuals with a MA – for the most part once an individual has signed up for a plan they are locked in for the remainder of the year.  However plans can and have dropped health care providers mid year leaving customers scrambling to find a new doctor.  What has been suggested is that if a plan drops a customer’s provider the customer should have the ability to seek a new MA.  Making this change would have no cost to Medicare however the companies that write this type of insurance are highly resistant to this change.

Part D of Medicare provides drug coverage is very helpful to beneficiaries, this also private insurance.  One issue with this coverage is the so-called “donut hole” where coverage is dramatically reduced.   PPACA is closing the donut hole which will be a godsend when it is finally closed out in 2020.  However there’s another significant issue.  The original act that set up Part D mandated that there be no competitive bidding for covered medications.  An example, the cost for one of the common medications prescribed for asthma is between $250 and $300 per month for someone on Medicare.  Yet the same medication in France will cost about $40 per month.  Having competitive bidding supply medications would not cost Medicare in fact this would lead to significant savings for the program and the people Medicare covers.

The reality of life is most people have not considered long term care.  Many seniors will find themselves as wards of the state in order to get the state to cover their costs in nursing home or other facility.  This issue will only grow in our state as our population continues to age.

There are other crying needs.  Medicare does not have any dental coverage and in all reality there is little affordable private dental coverage available.  Most seniors need glasses but again Medicare doesn’t cover this.  One of the greatest issues facing seniors is isolation.  Often a significant contributor to isolation is hearing loss.  Yet Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids.

I have to wonder given the issues that we are looking at for seniors, where is Claude Pepper?  When will we get our collective heads out of the sand?






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