Medicare beneficiaries' access to care varies widely according to income, and low-income seniors have much more trouble getting preventive care and other "extras" than their peers who can buy supplemental insurance, a new report has found.
Nearly one in four Medicare beneficiaries with an income less than 200% of the poverty level has difficulty obtaining access to care, compared with just one in 10 who have incomes above that level, the report said.
The Commonwealth Fund and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, two healthcare philanthropies, released the report, "Medicare Beneficiaries: A Population at Risk," last week. Its release coincided with a public meeting of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare (See story above).
The report asks the commission to keep in mind that the needs of the Medicare population vary substantially from those of working-age families.
"The sickest and poorest need special attention in Medicare reform," said Drew Altman, Kaiser foundation president.
One of the major problems faced by the indigent elderly is prescription costs. Of those beneficiaries whose incomes are between 100% and 200% of the poverty level, one in seven spends more than $100 a month on prescriptions. Seniors who are enrolled in Medicare HMOs or have employer health benefits spend much lower amounts of their incomes on drugs.
Sixty-nine percent of men with incomes above 200% of the poverty level get prostate screenings, whereas only 40% of those under the poverty line get them.