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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

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley announces run for re-election

Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced on Friday that he's running for re-election in 2022.

Why it matters: The GOP is looking to regain control of both chambers of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections. Several Republicans had urged the 88-year-old senator to run to avoid another retirement after five incumbent senators said they wouldn't seek re-election.

China deems all cryptocurrency transactions illegal

A person walking past China's central bank in Beijing in August 2007. Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty Images

China's central bank declared on Friday that all cryptocurrencies are illegal, banning crypto-related transactions and cryptocurrency mining, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: China's government is now following through with its goal of cracking down on unofficial virtual currencies, which it has said are a financial, social and national security risk and a contributor to global warming.

Biden's big bet backfires

Two key dealmakers — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) — leave a luncheon in the Capitol yesterday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

President Biden bit off too much, too fast in trying to ram through what would be the largest social expansion in American history, top Democrats privately say.

Why it matters: At the time Biden proposed it, he had his mind set on a transformational accomplishment that would put him in the pantheon of FDR and JFK.