Healthcare has been at the center of the political debate for months, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to the discussion. In fact, it seems as if the debate is just now heating up, fueled by promises made by President Trump and fellow Republicans who now control Congress. And while there are a lot of promises and ideas circulating Washington, there aren’t any concrete plans, which is making a lot of people, especially those who depend on Medicare, nervous about the future and about the rising costs of healthcare.
If you’re on Medicare and have a fixed income, you want to know what the future holds for your healthcare and your wallet. Unfortunately, there are no clear answers at this time. But Trump and fellow Republicans have thrown around a few ideas that allow us to speculate on how things might turn out. Here are a few scenarios that could affect your current coverage under Medicare.
If the Affordable Care Act Is Repealed
Legislators recently took a huge step that will enable them to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. However, nobody really knows what a replacement will look like or how it will compare to the options Americans currently have. What we do know is how the ACA has helped Medicare and reduced costs for you. If Obamacare is repealed and not replaced with something comparable or better, you can expect serious consequences, particularly when it comes to how much you spend on medication.
Experts predict that repealing the ACA will severely damage Medicare. Worked into the framework of the ACA were provisions that lowered operating costs for Medicare while increasing the quality of care available to patients. It also shored up the program, making it more stable for at least another decade.
Stripping away these protections could destabilize the Medicare program, resulting in more instances of fraud, slower payments to providers and lower quality in care. These and other changes would also translate into higher premiums and copays for the insured.
If Trump Modernizes Medicare
President Trump has also talked about modernizing Medicare. His transition website even stated that it was a major goal of the Trump administration. But what does that mean exactly? While Trump has not gone into much detail, House Speaker Paul Ryan has, and it’s expected that Trump will embrace much of Ryan’s plan going forward. In essence, Ryan wants to decrease the amount of money that the government contributes to the program and turn Medicare into a voucher-based system.
It’s a system known as premium support, and it does have pros and cons. But the biggest con in this scenario is that Medicare enrollees may end up paying for most of their care out of pocket, which could be a huge burden to those on fixed or limited incomes. The goal of Medicare in 1965 was to provide seniors with access to federally subsidized, low-cost healthcare. Ryan’s goal appears to be to save the government money at the expense of consumers.
If Republicans Privatize Medicare
Privatization of Medicare would put an end to the government paying for healthcare for those enrolled in the program. Instead, Medicare recipients would purchase an insurance policy with their own money or with their cash benefits.
Under this system, Medicare enrollees could expect to get the care they can afford. Those with less income would only be able to afford base policies while those with more money would be able to purchase supplemental policies to enhance their coverage.
If privatization comes to pass and you have to purchase private insurance, you can expect to pay more for your coverage if you want to keep the same benefits you’re getting now. In an effort to keep your costs down, insurance companies may also limit the number of providers in your network, restricting your access to care.
If Medicare Faces Fewer Regulations
Medicare deregulation is the process of getting rid of burdensome regulations that prohibit the program from finding less expensive ways to provide coverage. For deregulation to work, however, Medicare has to be a free market, meaning it has to be privatized.
In theory, the plan could work to lower costs, but for whom? Many of the proposed solutions would cut some costs for policyholders, such as deductibles, but increase other costs, like copays. Medicare is a complicated government program that has several layers of complex regulations. Nobody really knows for sure how deregulation would affect the program from a government or consumer perspective.
There’s no doubt that changing Medicare would cause significant disruptions in service, possibly leading to seniors and people with disabilities without access to affordable coverage. The solutions to lowering costs may be even more complicated. So far, the Trump administration has been so focused on cutting government spending that they haven’t addressed the practical implications of gutting popular programs. Until a new healthcare system gets implemented, it remains to be seen how Trump’s policies will affect your monthly healthcare budget.