On January 1, 1992, Medicare introduced the Medicare Fee Schedule (MFS), a list of about 7,000 services that can be billed for. Each service is priced within the Resource-Based Relative Value Scale (RBRVS) with three Relative Value Units (RVUs) values largely determining the price. The three RVUs for a procedure are each geographically weighted and the weighted RVU value is multiplied by a global Conversion Factor (CF), yielding a price in dollars. The RVUs themselves are largely decided by a private group of 29 (mostly specialist) physicians—the American Medical Association's Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC).[54]
Many experts have suggested that establishing mechanisms to coordinate care for the dual-eligibles could yield substantial savings in the Medicare program, mostly by reducing hospitalizations. Such programs would connect patients with primary care, create an individualized health plan, assist enrollees in receiving social and human services as well as medical care, reconcile medications prescribed by different doctors to ensure they do not undermine one another, and oversee behavior to improve health.[145] The general ethos of these proposals is to "treat the patient, not the condition,"[139] and maintain health while avoiding costly treatments.

Over the long-term, Medicare faces significant financial challenges because of rising overall health care costs, increasing enrollment as the population ages, and a decreasing ratio of workers to enrollees. Total Medicare spending is projected to increase from $523 billion in 2010 to around $900 billion by 2020. From 2010 to 2030, Medicare enrollment is projected to increase from 47 million to 79 million, and the ratio of workers to enrollees is expected to decrease from 3.7 to 2.4.[79] However, the ratio of workers to retirees has declined steadily for decades, and social insurance systems have remained sustainable due to rising worker productivity. There is some evidence that productivity gains will continue to offset demographic trends in the near future.[80]


No part of Medicare pays for all of a beneficiary's covered medical costs and many costs and services are not covered at all. The program contains premiums, deductibles and coinsurance, which the covered individual must pay out-of-pocket. A study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2008 found the Fee-for-Service Medicare benefit package was less generous than either the typical large employer preferred provider organization plan or the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Standard Option.[46] Some people may qualify to have other governmental programs (such as Medicaid) pay premiums and some or all of the costs associated with Medicare.
You can apply online for Medicare even if you are not ready to retire. Use our online application to sign up for Medicare. It takes less than 10 minutes. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need more information. Otherwise, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail. Learn more about Your Medicare card.
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