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Expand chart
Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Note: Costs do not include premiums; Chart: Axios Visuals

More than half of Medicare beneficiaries with a serious illness have struggled to afford a medical bill, and some beneficiaries with chronic conditions pay an astronomical amount out of pocket for their care, two new studies find.

Why it matters: Medicare is supposed to be a safety net for America's seniors, but its lack of a cap on what beneficiaries pay out-of-pocket — and the fact that it doesn't cover some benefits — leads to many seniors falling through the cracks.

Driving the news: A new survey published yesterday in Health Affairs found that 53% of seriously ill Medicare beneficiaries said they'd experienced financial hardships while trying to get care.

  • Respondents reported having problems paying prescription drug bills most often, followed by hospital bills.

A second brief published by the Kaiser Family Foundation broke down Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket spending, which averaged $5,460 in in 2016, including their premiums.

  • The most expensive service for seniors, by far, was long-term care, which isn't covered by Medicare.
  • Beneficiaries with diseases likely to require long-term care — like Alzheimer's, other kinds of dementia, or Parkinson’s — had the highest spending.
  • Older beneficiaries, women and those in poor health faced higher-than-average costs.

The bottom line: Democrats across the ideological spectrum are leaning into expanding Medicare, but the existing program has plenty of holes.

Go deeper: The looming crisis in long-term care

Go deeper

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of American and Canadian diplomats affected by a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome," per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.