83% of Seniors Can not Afford New 2018 Tax on Health Insurance
$245 Increase in Health Premiums to Hit Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries in 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new national poll released today by the Better Medicare Alliance, reveals that 83 percent of Medicare beneficiaries say they will be negatively impacted if their health insurance premiums were to rise by $245 next year as projected due to an annual tax on health insurance premiums.
Though Congress previously suspended the tax originally established by the Affordable Care Act for 2017, the moratorium will lapse in 2018 and the tax will be reinstated at a higher annual level ($14.3 billion). Last week, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and 10 Senators introduced S. 1859, legislation to extend the moratorium on the tax for another year.
Over 20 percent of the $14.3 billion tax falls on Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. If Congress does not act to delay the HIT, premiums for nearly 19 million or one-third of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage is projected to increase by $22 billion nationwide in 2018 - $245 per year for each enrollee according to an actuarial analysis from Oliver Wyman. Beyond 2018, premium increases for senior and disabled Medicare Advantage beneficiaries could grow to more than $300 in 2023, and cumulatively could be more than $3,000 over the next 10 years.
The poll, conducted by Morning Consult in September, surveyed 2,037 Medicare-eligible seniors and found that 84 percent were not aware or familiar with the tax. Of those enrolled in Medicare Advantage who would be directly impacted, 85 percent said there were not familiar with the tax on their premiums.
“This tax was suspended for 2017 by Congress because it was raising costs for seniors and people with disabilities - many living on low or fixed incomes. This survey shows that not only are seniors facing a major hit, even worse, the majority are grossly unaware without any opportunity to prepare or make their voice heard. Costly premiums would put the high-quality, comprehensive health coverage Medicare Advantage provides financially out for reach for millions of Americans,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) President and CEO.
Key findings in the poll include the following:
- Nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) said premium costs are very important when choosing health coverage – more than those who indicated co-pays (83 percent) or choice of doctor (73 percent) as very important
- More than half (51 percent) said that they believe Congress would be most responsible if HIT were to cause their premiums to rise – 23 percent said they would blame health insurers and 18 percent indicated they would blame the President.
- Across party identification, 60 percent said they would be less likely to vote for their member of Congress if they do not support the delay of the HIT – 38 percent indicated they would be much less likely.
- Of those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, 84 percent said their current health insurance premium is affordable
Last month, 24 national, state, and local organizations representing providers, community partners, and beneficiaries sent a letter to Congress calling for swift action to delay the HIT for a year. The letter called on Congress to vote to delay the tax, before premiums for 2018 are finalized by the end of the year.
“Nearly 40 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees live on less than $20,000 per year. Medicare Advantage is an important source of coverage for low-income and racial/ethnic minority beneficiaries. For those who suffer from chronic conditions, barriers to critical primary care and disease management covered by Medicare Advantage could be devastating,” said Dr. Elena Rios, President of the National Hispanic Medical Association.
Medicare Advantage - highly valued by beneficiaries for its affordability, simplicity, supplemental benefits and care management - has been shown to increase preventive care, reduce hospitalizations, improve outcomes, and achieve high patient satisfaction.
Results from the full survey have a margin of error of ±2%.