MEDICARE: Enrollment To Increase in 2011 as Baby Boomers Join
As “baby boomers” start to become eligible for Medicare, a record 2.8 million U.S. residents will quality for Medicare in 2011 and nearly 4.2 million will qualify each year by 2030, USA Today reports.
On Jan. 1, 2011, the first 6,000 of eligible Baby Boomers will begin receiving benefits. The number of beneficiaries is expected to increase by 3% annually. The government estimates 76 million baby boomers in all will enroll in Medicare, causing the program to grow from 47 million beneficiaries to 80 million beneficiaries in 2030.
CMS estimates each new Medicare beneficiary costs $7,700 annually, but the costs are rising due to inflation and costly medical advances, as well as seniors choosing early retirement or receiving disability aid from the federal program. The total cost of Medicare is expected to expand to $929 billion in 2020 — an 80% increase over 10 years. The program is slated to become insolvent in 2017, but the federal health law could extend funding until 2029 if payments to physicians and other providers are cut back (Wolf, USA Today, 12/30).
Poll Finds U.S. Residents Concerned That Medicare is Unreliable
In related news, a recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that 43% of baby boomers said they do not expect to be able to rely on Medicare throughout, while 20% believe Medicare is secure, the AP/Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. The poll also found that baby boomers and U.S. residents of all ages are willing to accept trade-offs to help Medicare continue to offer its current benefits.
Sixty-three percent of respondents dismissed raising the eligibility age to bolster Medicare benefits, but when the poll asked respondents to choose between raising the age or cutting benefits, 59% preferred to raise the eligibility age to keep the benefits.
Sixty-two percent of seniors said they would be willing to pay more to prevent doctors’ fees from being cut, and 54% favored requiring Medicare beneficiaries to pay higher copayments and deductibles. The poll indicated that 61% of U.S. residents favored raising Medicare taxes to avoid cutting benefits, even a majority of Republicans and adults in their 20s.
The poll also found that people born after 1980 were more likely to favor a fixed-payment voucher plan to help buy private insurance, while seniors opposed it four-to-one. Younger baby boomers were more likely to favor voucher program as an alternative to Medicare (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12/30).
– Daniela Feldman