Opinion: Making Sure Medicare Works

I was fortunate to be able to spend time with my grandfather before he passed away. He was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, and he came to the U.S. following unimaginable horrors to build a better life. He settled in Rochester, N.Y., and built a successful liquor store business from the ground up. Like many Americans, he worked hard every day to earn his retirement and eventually lived with my parents and me in Westchester, N.Y.

While in high school, I spent many nights listening to stories of my grandfather’s life in Poland and his time in concentration camps. We debated political issues over dinner, and I showed him how to use new technology and gadgets. I also observed his frustration as he tried to understand the Medicare system on which he relied as a retiree. Even with my mom’s support, he spent weeks wading through documents to try to ensure he had the coverage he needed.

This experience is sadly the norm. Millions of Americans find it difficult to choose coverage or switch to plans best suited for their needs. The problem is only becoming larger as our country’s population gets older at an accelerating pace and as more plans and insurance carriers enter the market. For many people choosing the right Medicare plan remains one of the most important financial and health decisions they will make as they transition into their retirement years.

The $3.5-trillion budget proposal is moving one step closer to passage. In part, the proposal recommends expanding Original Medicare (known as Parts A & B) to include dental, vision, and hearing benefits, which are not currently covered. This means that Medicare beneficiaries currently pay 100 percent of the costs for dental services, eye exams or contact lenses, and hearing aids, among many other services and devices. Taken together, this proposal would expand Original Medicare coverage for critical services, saving thousands of dollars for certain beneficiaries each year.

In addition, Senate Democrats are debating the merits of lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 years old to 60 as part of the $3.5-trillion infrastructure package. While it is too early to evaluate the precise mechanics of the proposal, there are some early indications of how it could impact Americans. If more people transitioned from employer-sponsored health insurance to Medicare, employer health insurance costs could be reduced. Medicare’s reimbursement structure also incentivizes providers to deliver care more cost-effectively, which could decrease overall health care spending.

Although the Biden administration supports the current proposal, it will likely take months for Congress to resolve the many remaining open questions. In the meantime, Americans will continue to struggle to find the Medicare options best suited for their needs. At Chapter, our commitment is simple: We search through every plan nationwide — more than 24,000 options — to recommend the best-fitting option for each person. Every one of our teammates at Chapter has a story like mine, and what we do as a team every day was inspired by my grandfather Henry.