If you were born after 1956, listen up: Medicare may not be there for you when you retire. Now, this is not just some statistical research mumbo-jumbo. No, The Wall Street Journal last week reported in their SmartMoney section that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s solution to stem rising Medicare costs is to end the current Medicare program for people born in 1957 and after. Starting in 2022, when those American begin turning 65, they would no longer get their medical bills paid directly by the government.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare spent an average of $11,743 on beneficiaries in 2009, an amount Ryan calls “unsustainable.” Ryan’s plan essentially aims to lower that average to $8,000 a year. Under his plan, that figure is the entitlement guaranteed to an individual – although more may be guaranteed in the case of old age or special infirmity – but rather than using that money to directly pay the medical bills of beneficiaries it will go to an insurance company through which the individual actually receives the benefits. In other words, Medicare would become more like aid to an individual in the form of assistance in guaranteeing insurance, but the actual mode of insurance will be privatized.
Reaching 65 and enrolling in Medicare before 2022 can grandfather you into the old system, as the plan now stands, but whether you’re affected or not the change could become vital to your plans and well-being.
What does that mean in real terms? It could mean that seniors and the disabled will have access to plans that can be tailored to fit them more precisely, and the healthier individuals could see reduced costs. Unfortunately, as the Congressional Budget Office has admitted, under Mr. Ryan’s proposal "most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system." It could be quite unfortunate news to seniors already feeling the sting of rising costs.
Even though the plan is far from law and only just entering what is sure to be an extended political firefight, it ought to be food for thought. Politics is guiding the fight, but the question for you is, “how are you going to plan?”