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

29 mins ago - Health

Pelosi: Birx "enabled" Trump on coronavirus misinformation

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Monday she does not have confidence in White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx because "she has enabled" President Trump to spread coronavirus misinformation.

What she's saying: "I don't have confidence in anyone who stands there while the president says, 'Swallow Lysol and it's going to cure your virus,'" Pelosi told host Jim Scuitto.

36 mins ago - Technology

Google launches $349 Pixel 4a

Google

Google on Monday launched its long-expected Pixel 4a, a $349 device that brings key features of the company's flagship smartphone to a more affordable price point.

Why it matters: Google saw surprisingly strong demand for last year's "a" model and having a broader range of products allows the company to reach more parts of the market.

A wild weekend for Microsoft's play for TikTok

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While its Big Tech rivals were testifying in front of a congressional antitrust committee last week, Microsoft was negotiating what could be the largest — and most politically perilous — tech acquisition of 2020.

The state of play: The hullabaloo surrounding Microsoft picking up TikTok has undergone a flurry of twists and turns over the weekend, as both the White House and the tech giant reacted in real time.