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A Medicare primer

Published Oct. 4, 2005

The mail on Medicare can be confusing. Here are some facts on the program and congressional proposals to revamp it.

Medicare is a government-run health program serving 36-million elderly and disabled Americans.

Medicare Part A provides hospital coverage with money raised through payroll taxes. It could run out of money by 2002.

Medicare Part B, an optional program that offers doctor services, costs recipients $46.10 a month.

Program costs have been growing at close to 11 percent a year.

Republicans in Congress passed a budget blueprint last week that cuts the rate of growth to about 6 percent.

The GOP budget will mean trimming $270-billion from current-level spending over the next seven years.

Although no details have been approved, Republicans say they hope to reduce costs by cracking down on fraud and shifting more Medicare beneficiaries into managed care programs such as HMOs.

Congress will continue budget work all summer, with a likely vote on Medicare in September.