Growing up in rural Oklahoma, I saw first-hand the importance of Medicare. Finding accessible and affordable health care was always very difficult. Many folks had no choice but to purchase a catastrophic/high deductible plan, or they relied on a spouse to get coverage by taking a job in town, or they went without health insurance at all. Simply put, most people gambled and prayed, trying to hold on till they could get on Medicare.
Today, Medicare is the primary health insurance program for the 49 million Americans who are 65 and older. Roughly, one in four of those beneficiaries are rural residents, and that number will only rise in coming years. With changing demographics and rising health care costs, Medicare is facing a number of challenges. Unfortunately, some in Washington believe the only way to address those challenges is to cut Medicare benefits or force seniors to pay more. No doubt any such changes to Medicare will greatly impact rural America.
Is there a better way? What about cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse? The U.S. health system wastes as much as a third of all spending because of inefficient payment systems, uncoordinated care, duplication, over-testing and unnecessary paperwork. It's estimated that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars just by reducing waste. More could be saved by stepping up fraud detection. In 2011 alone, anti-fraud efforts recovered $4.1 billion. In October 2012, Medicare Strike Force operations in seven cities led to charges against 91 individuals-including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals-for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving some $432 million in false billing. And yet we know much more can and should be done.
Here are some other examples of Medicare fraud that may hit closer to home: a healthcare provider bills Medicare for services you never received; a supplier bills Medicare for equipment you never got; someone uses your Medicare card to get medical care, supplies, or equipment; a company offers a Medicare drug plan that has not been approved by Medicare; or, a company uses false information to mislead you into joining a Medicare plan.
If we want to preserve and protect Medicare for future generations, it's essential to crack down on fraud and abuse. The resulting savings will cut costs for families, businesses and the federal government, and increase the quality of services for those who need care. But stopping fraud requires the cooperation of everyone-the federal government, state governments, health care providers, insurers, law enforcement, and even people like you and me.
To learn more about the challenges facing Medicare, and hear what you can do to help stop Medicare fraud, tune in to AARP Live on RFD-TV this Thursday, May 16 th at 9p.m. CT on RFD-TV. I'll be joined by AARP state director Greg Marchildon (VT), AARP senior advisor Pete Jeffries, and AARP Iowa volunteer Maryalice Larson, all of whom have a first-hand view of the challenges facing Medicare. Let's find responsible solutions that will keep Medicare strong without shifting the burden of higher health care costs onto seniors and future retirees.
Tune in to AARP Live on RFD on Thursday, May 16 th at 9 pm CST to learn more.
(click here for "by zipcode" channel locator) Viewers are encouraged to phone in during the show, 888- 687-2277 toll-free, to share your questions/concerns.