J Gen Intern Med. 2020 Aug 31. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-05327-6. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Medicare is estimated to cover 14% of the population of the USA (Henry J Kais Fam Found 2017), over fifty million people. Despite covering a smaller percentage of the population than employer-sponsored insurance and Medicaid, Medicare is the most common payer for inpatient encounters. The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project estimated that in 2015, Medicare was the primary payer for 39.4% of hospitalizations (HCUP 2019). While in daily practice it may be practical to assume that patients eligible for Medicare are financially insulated from the costs of care, the reality is that no care exists in a vacuum. Medicare is a complex program that mitigates but does not completely eliminate costs to patients.
OBJECTIVE: This review aims to shed light for providers on the basics of Medicare, and how beneficiaries are impacted financially by their care to better understand some of the social barriers our patients face in seeking care.