Friday, November 16, 2007

AARP Poll on Provider Favorability and Medicare Challenges

A recent AARP poll, published in the November issue of the AARP Bulletin shows patients like their doctors and their pharmacists, even as they dislike the system.

Here’s their poll of 1019 adults aged 18 and older. I have taken the liberty of arranging results in descending order of favorability.

Pharmacists, 82.0% overall favorability, 78% favorable under 50., 86% favorable over 50

Doctors, 81.5% overall favorability , 79% favorable under 50, 84% favorable over 50

Local Hospitals, 72.5%, overall favorability, 65% favorable under 50, 80% favorable over 50

Health Insurance Companies, 41.5% overall favorability, 40% under 50, 43% over 50

Drug Companies, 37.0%. overall favorability , 41% under 50, 33% over 50

HMOs, 35.5%, overall favorability, 37% under 50, 34% over 50

Meanwhile Medicare ”challenges” disturb AARP. Monthly Medicare premiums have risen from $43 to $96 over the last decade. Overall Medicare costs have gone from $2.7 billion in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law to $372.3 billion this year. Medicare faces bankruptcy by 2019.

The answer to these cost problems, says AARP, is to curb waste, trim 12% overpayment to Medicare private plans, ensure doctors don’t pull out of the program, and extend coverage to all Americans.

Medicare will have to pay perhaps $15 to $20 billion more to keep doctors in the program, and coverage to the uninsured will cost $110 to $120 billion in the first year. Medicare costs have multiplied by 14 times since 1965, hardly a record that inspires confidence in Medicare’s ability to discipline itself.
In a 2005 interview I conducted with Joseph Antos, PhD, an economist for the American Enterprise Institute, for my book Voices of Health Reform, he called Medicare the “Sheriff of the U.S. Health System.” He observed 99.9% of hospitals, and 95% of doctors have to follow the Sheriff’s rules, and private plans follow in lockstep Medicare’s reimbursement patterns. Thus, Medicare profound influences health costs.

Antos concluded, “Medicare is the biggest actor in the system, with a badge to back it up. It’s unwise to buck the big boy. We’d be better off if we had a Medicare program that throttled back on rules and regulations and allowed providers and patients more opportunity to take the initiative.”


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Anonymous said...

Medicare is definitely in crisis. It's a huge issue impacting everyone--taxpayers, the elderly, boomers who may one day need assistance, low income families and so on. But Congress isn't listening to us. Though I am only in the autumn of my life, I realize the importance of adequate health care in order to remain vital and active and to sustain a quality of life in our golden years. I encourage everyone who feels the same way to visit to sign the petition and make your voice heard. You can also make an impact and be heard by emailing, and watching videos on the site. Let’s all do our part to improve this worsening situation of health care deterioration in our lives. I'm working to support this with AARP so I have the inside scoop.

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