Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Medicare & Younger Beneficiaries with Disabilities

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website approximately 25 – 30 % of people with MS are enrolled in Medicare, a public health insurance program for senior citizens and the disabled. Medicare plays a critical role in securing the health and financial welfare for nonelderly adults with disabilities; however, researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington found a “consistent pattern of differences in the health care experiences of nonelderly disabled and elderly beneficiaries.” A recent report has found that younger disabled beneficiaries of Medicare experience greater “access problems and cost-related barriers” to care and subsequently are more likely to report serious health consequences as a result.

Over half of nonelderly disabled Medicare beneficiaries report problems paying for health care services, delaying or not getting care due to cost concerns compared to less than 20 percent of elderly beneficiaries. Based on comparisons between the two populations, over half of nonelderly disabled adults report a “worsening of existing medical problems, physical pain, and stress or anxiety” compared to 26 percent of elderly beneficiaries.

Although both elderly beneficiaries and nonelderly cited cost-related barriers for dental services, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and visits to the doctors, the nonelderly were twice as more likely to report cost as a significant barrier in acquiring these services. Additionally, the survey revealed differences among Part D Prescription Drug Plan enrollees with more nonelderly disabled expressing difficulty obtaining medication due to lack of coverage, needing prior approval from their plan to cover medication, and cost. Consequently, more nonelderly disabled reported delaying or not getting medication, skipping doses, or taking smaller doses again reporting that their health suffered as a result.

Despite the reported limitations for younger disabled beneficiaries of Medicare, the Affordable Care Act (signed into law in March 2010) shows promise of strengthening Medicare. The act has many promising opportunities for people with disabilities leading to fewer cost-related and access problems many younger disabled beneficiaries experience related to prescriptions and health care services.

To read the entire article by Cubanski and Neuman, click here. To learn more about the Affordable Care Act and people with disabilities click here.

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