Saturday, March 5, 2011
FIL-AM GROUP: MEDICARE PORTABILITY TO CUT COSTS, HELP STAVE OFF BANKRUPTCY
As the White House and Capitol Hill struggle to find ways to tame the budget deficit, Filipino groups here and in the Philippines see an opportunity to push an initiative that will allow overseas Americans to receive medical care in Philippine hospitals.
This is tied to the larger debate of Medicare entitlement reforms and ideally offering medical portability for an estimated 6 million Americans living abroad – about 250,000 of them in the Philippines.
“If President Obama wants to save Medicare and Medicaid from bankruptcy, the portability of US health insurance benefits should be part of the debate,” Nora Van Horssen said in a 2007 paper.
Studies, some dating back to 2004, predict Medicare could become insolvent in 8 years.
“We are in the grassroots organizing stage,” said Eric Lachica.
He revealed they are talking with other interested groups, including the Philippine Nurses Association in the US and Association of American Residents Overseas, among others, to make medical portability one of the hot-button issues in April when the nation marks Overseas Americans Week.
Lachica said they want President Obama to issue an executive order to authorize a feasibility study for implementing a Medicare portability program.
“We need the buy-in of the administration and some key members of Congress for this to really push forward,” he explained.
Medicare provides health insurance coverage to US citizens 65 or older, and others with certain medical conditions (e.g., patients with end-stage renal disease).
The program covers hospital and medical costs, drug prescriptions and health plans by Medicare-accredited private insurance companies.
2011 will be critical for Medicare because it will be the first time expenses will equal income.
When it was created in 1965, Medicare was predicted to cost $26 billion in 2003 – the actual cost reached $245 billion.
Total Medicare pay-outs reached $462 billion in 2008 and $484 billion in 2009.
Congress is debating various proposals for entitlement reforms to stave off a Medicare bankruptcy without dragging the American economy down with it.
Lachica believes that medical portability is both timely and beneficial to all stakeholders – from the government to the individual Medicare beneficiaries.
He pointed to a 2005 study which showed that Medicare spent an average $7,000 per beneficiary who received medical services in the US.
But the study, Lachica added, showed that average payment dropped to about $3,000 when beneficiaries received medical services in Mexico and other countries.
Philippine hospitals already have a toehold on this program – Medicare already allows US citizens in Guam to be treated in Philippine hospitals because they are nearer than those in the North American mainland.
And obviously, the cost of medical care is much cheaper in the Philippines.
The Medical City hospital system in Manila has already treated over a thousand US Medicare beneficiaries, Lachica revealed,
The Philippine medical tourism sector has emerged as a $350 million enterprise, bolstering the country’s position to meet the future needs of American patients.
Lachica declared that the US can potentially save billions of dollars by embracing Medicare portability.
It will also redound to the benefit of hundreds of thousands of Filipino-Americans entering their twilight years who wish to retire in the Philippines.
They can continue to enjoy their medical benefits even while they live in the Philippines if Medicare portability is carried to fruition.