Seniors have one real health insurance option

Today’s news from the Associated Press was selected by Media Writing student Ashley Husbands.

AUSTIN – As the cost of health care continues to rise, Medicare is the only real option for health insurance for seniors across Texas and the nation. Those who rely on it are urging Congress to keep the program strong for future generations.

According to Barbara Kaase of Mesquite, with her health issues there would have been no way she could have retired without Medicare.

“Fact of the matter is, as you age you get chronic conditions,” she said. “And those chronic conditions, if you had to go buy insurance, would either eliminate your possibilities to get insurance or would make it extremely high. It is not always easy to switch health cover if you are not aware of your options either. So they need to fix Medicare so that people can get the help they need going forward.”

Today marks the 48th anniversary of Medicare. If no changes are made, it’s been estimated that the trust fund will be exhausted by 2026.

Among the proposals in Washington to keep Medicare operating in the future would be to raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. Kaase said that would leave many seniors without health coverage and waiting, as many are already – including her friend with cancer of the liver.

“He lost his job early, and they wanted $1,800 a month for his insurance,” Kaase said. “He couldn’t afford that. When you’re out of work, how can you pay $1,800 a month for a private policy? I think he’s 63 now and he’s hoping that he and his wife can hang on until he reaches the point that he can get Medicare.”

Instead of looking at raising the eligibility age or reducing benefits, said Tim Morstad, director of outreach with AARP Texas, Congress should move ahead with some of what he called the more responsible solutions that won’t jeopardize the health of seniors.

“The federal government really needs to take hard look at the waste, fraud and abuse that is occurring in Medicare,” Morstad said. “There are ways to streamline processes to make the program more efficient and to make it cost less.”

In Texas, there are currently more than 3 million seniors enrolled in the Medicare program.

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