Friday, February 20, 2009

Medicare for people under 65 (by Suzie)

         Many people associate Medicare with older adults, and they may not know, or they forget, that people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance payments also qualify. About 7 million people younger than 65 qualify for Medicare because they have severe and permanent disabilities. 
       The government makes people wait two years after becoming eligible for SSDI before they can receive Medicare. (Here's an explanation.) Some of us joke that the feds must be hoping we'll die first and thus save them the expense. Cost was an issue when Congress decided in 1972 to create a two-year waiting period. This also was supposed to reduce abuse, according to a Newsday article. But people already go through rigorous screening to get SSDI. If they pass those hurdles, why make them wait again? 
       A report this month on cancer patients, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, mentions the issue with Medicare. The Medicare Rights Center has a form for writing to Congress in protest. The center notes: 
According to a 2003 study by the Commonwealth Fund, as many as one-third of those in the waiting period may be uninsured or have inadequate insurance coverage. By the time they obtain Medicare coverage, 77 percent are poor or nearly poor. Close to half have incomes below the poverty line. After qualifying for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), nearly 12 percent of individuals die while still in the Medicare waiting period.
         Even when they get on Medicare, some people can't find an insurance company willing to write a Medigap policy
         As a step toward universal health care, Congress needs to end the two-year waiting period for Medicare, and all states should require insurance companies to write Medigap policies for people under 65 if they do so for people 65 and older.
         P.S. SSDI and Medicare are different from SSI and Medicaid.