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Half of Medicare beneficiaries with serious illness face financial hardship

November 8, 2019

Topics: Quote of the Day

By Michael Anne Kyle, Robert J. Blendon, John M. Benson, Melinda K. Abrams, and Eric C. Schneider
Health Affairs, November 2019


In a national survey, seriously ill Medicare beneficiaries described financial hardships resulting from their illness—despite high beneficiary satisfaction with Medicare overall and the fact that many have supplemental insurance. About half reported a serious problem paying medical bills, with prescription drugs proving most onerous.


Medicare insurance is broadly popular, but seriously ill beneficiaries who most need financial protection report widespread problems affording care and financial instability.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Medicare should be especially advantageous for beneficiaries with serious illness, but about half reported a serious problem paying medical bills.

Although “Medicare for All” initially referred to the vastly superior single payer model of reform, the label has been corrupted. For some it refers to merely adding a Medicare-like public option to our dysfunctional system of health care financing. For others it means that your insurance through work will be taken away from you, and, to compound problems, your taxes will go up.

Regardless of labels, it is imperative that the public understands that the single payer model would provide affordable, comprehensive health care for absolutely everyone. No other model, whether or not labeled “Medicare for All,” comes close. That begins by understanding that we are not proposing to continue with the inadequate traditional Medicare program, but we would be replacing it with a vastly improved version, whether labeled “Single Payer Improved Medicare for All” or whatever.

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About the Commentator, Don McCanne

Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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