A wise old man once told me, “The only thing in life that is constant is change.” I received a few emails recently that showed pictures of people, places, and things from the past. It had pictures in it such as an old box camera, Lincoln logs, the old racing cars, clothes and hair styles during the twenties, downtown street cars, men dressed in suits and ties watching ball games, telephone booths, and people sitting at the counter of a drug store eating ice cream or drinking sodas.
The pictures were wonderful, and I enjoyed my walk down memory lane. Pictures like that bring up old personal memories, and soon I was starring off into space and reminiscing about old times. We “old folks” do that occasionally. It wasn’t long before I started to think about the changes that have happened to all of us and the different world that we live in today.
I am so amused when I see young children looking at or handling items such as old phones, typewriters, and such, asking their parents what they’re used for or where are the computer screens. They draw a blank when they see VHS tapes or 8 tracks. These items are not exactly from the stone age, yet it makes me feel like I am!
And what about the music? I can’t understand the words from any of their songs, but the looks I get when I mention Bing Crosby, or The Beatles, or even Nat King Cole. The other day I mentioned John Wayne and got the strangest look. John Who? But we’re supposed to know who their favorite movie stars or entertainment groups are. Thank goodness for “All in the Family, Barney Miller, and The Golden Girls” reruns.
I stand in awe at all the changes regarding medicine in just the past few decades. On our prayer chain at church we learn of miraculous surgeries and procedures that were unheard of just a few years ago. People are not just alive but are back to leading productive and healthy lives because of the advances in medicine. We’re living longer and more active lives. Most of us would agree that’s a good thing.
However, looking at it from a financial position, it’s causing some problems. Living longer means our Social Security benefits will need to be paid for a longer period of time. When the monies for Social Security were mixed into the general fund and spent for other things, living longer created a shortage of funds which will have to come from somewhere. Kate told me that she read that the Social Security fund is scheduled to be depleted by 2034. If steps aren’t taken soon, some have predicted that our monthly checks could be reduced by 25% or more. For millions of seniors, this is their only source of income.
Medicare benefits will be needed for a longer period. When Medicare was first introduced in 1966, the Part A inpatient hospital deductible was $40. It has risen through the years until today it costs $1340 and this is not an annual deductible. It can be charged for each hospital stay. The copayments for a stay in the hospital can be as high as $670 per day. If you qualify for daily skilled nursing care, after 20 days the costs have risen from $5 per day to $167.50 per day. Medicare doesn’t currently charge us a premium for Part A benefits. In my opinion, I think that will change.
Part B, or your outpatient expenses, will have to increase for doctors to survive. The doctor sends the bills to Medicare and Medicare only pays the doctors the amount that they approve. Doctors are scrambling to find ways to cut their costs. Fewer and fewer graduate students are entering the medical field. Our Part B annual deductible has increased from $50 in 1966 to $183 this year. I believe that this deductible will continue to increase.
January 1, 2020 the Medicare supplement plan F will no longer be offered to new enrollees. All Medicare recipients who already have a plan F will be grandfathered. The plan F pays the annual Part B deductible. A coincidence? I think not.
For most of us, our premiums for Medicare Part B insurance are subtracted from our Social Security checks. Most likely, if we are charged some day for our Medicare Part A insurance premiums, those too would come from our Social Security checks, the same checks that may be in jeopardy. I’ve been told that Medicare has been reducing the billions in subsidies being sent to the insurance companies to fund the Medicare Advantage Plans. Since these plans are only guaranteed for one year, the insurance companies that sell them will be scrambling each year to cut costs and most likely benefits.
Medicare and Social Security are two of the largest expenses to the federal government each year and changes must be made to keep them both afloat. New funds must be appropriated by congress and additional premiums will need to come from the Medicare recipients to make it work. To make it even more complicated, the “Baby Boomers” are now turning 65 in huge numbers. It’s yet another load on Medicare and Social Security.
Times, they are a-changing. We need to be aware of the potential changes and be prepared for their impact on us and our families. Some day we may look back and call these the “good old days”. We stand by to help if we can. Just give us a call.
Orion Steen is a licensed agent and specializes in Medicare supplemental plans. He has been advising his clients on life and health insurance matters in Arizona for over 45 years. He can be reached for related questions by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call toll-free 888-846-6891 or cell 623-846-6891.