Retirees fear proposed Medicare reforms will drive their costs beyond means
By Debra Erdley
Published: Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 9:57 p.m.
Standing more than 6 feet tall with ramrod straight posture and a thick shock of white hair, James Smith, 76, looks the picture of health.
But the Dunbar man, who retired from U.S. Steel after 40 years as a barge deckhand, said Medicare has a lot to do with that. Smith takes 27 pills a day since a brutal bout with complications from salivary gland cancer last fall. He hopes proposals pending in Washington don't hurt Medicare and those who rely on it.
“The benefits are beautiful for me. If we lose them, we'll all be in a lot of trouble,” he said.
Smith was among scores of retired union workers who gathered in West Mifflin on Tuesday, the 48th anniversary of Medicare, as the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans rallied its members against Medicare proposals it says would increase their costs.
Eva Dominguez, a legislative representative for the Alliance of Retired Americans in Washington, told the group Obama administration proposals would increase deductibles for new Medicare beneficiaries, place surcharges on Medigap policies and add deductibles for home health services. Proposals in the Republican-controlled House would replace traditional Medicare with vouchers, raise the age for benefits and charge higher premiums of all seniors with incomes in excess of $47,000 a year, she said.
Policy experts on both sides of the aisle have been adamant that Medicare reforms are a must as the baby-boomer generation moves into retirement and an ever-growing portion of the population depends on the insurance program.
Jean Friday, 80, of Belle Vernon, president of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, a group of 300,000 union retirees including steelworkers, teachers and others across the state, said her members are awakening to changes in Medicare that could cost them.
“People don't even know these things are happening until they come home and get hit with a big bill,” Friday said.
The prospect of higher costs and bigger bills worries John Capane, 85, of Clairton.
“I really can't afford much more than I'm paying now,” said Capane, who retired from U.S. Steel's Clairton works.
Although seniors often get the blame for health care cost increases, a study by the Society of Actuaries in May found that America's elders are “not an overwhelming driver of increased health care spending.”
The rising costs of technology, malpractice and defensive medical practices are among the competing theories of the likely cost drivers, said David Newman, executive director of the Health Care Cost Institute.
Much of the debate over containing Medicare costs stems from the fact that the Affordable Care Act's proposals to cut costs by eliminating inefficiencies rely on designs that are unproven, Newman said.
Accountable Care Organizations designed to manage all care for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may produce savings, he said.
“But it will take a while to figure out how to do it,” Newman said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Class AAA rivals Bethel Park, Peters Twp. set for rubber match
- Misadventures with ObamaCare
- Kovacevic: This has to be Year of the Bat
- Pirates reliever Morris enhances value with strong spring
- Trib TESTED: Sticky Shoes
- Flyers complete weekend sweep of Penguins with another win at Consol
- Pitt gets No. 9 seed in South, will play Colorado in tournament opener
- Pittsburgh police make 71 arrests during St. Patrick’s celebrations
- Penguins’ Letang cleared for full practice 6-plus weeks after stroke
- Final words from Malaysian jet came after systems shutdown
- Body found in car on Camp Horne Road off-ramp from I-279 north of Pittsburgh