Jake Smith, a Durham, N.C. man who's good for what he owes, sold his paid-off home of 33 years recently to settle about $15,000 in medical debt that wasn't covered by Medicare. Smith, 80, a retired truck driver who volunteered for the Navy at age 17, is among the more than one in 10 older Americans whose only medical insurance is basic Medicare. The federal program pays a portion of doctor and hospital bills, but leaves the rest to patients.
Out-of-pocket payments by Medicare recipients such as Smith will continue to climb as federal officials try to keep the giant program from consuming an ever larger share of government spending, health-care researchers say.
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