Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director Judith Stein was featured in the New York Times "Room for Debate" this week defending the traditional Medicare program against efforts to privatize and weaken it.
Under Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan, individuals would be given a set amount to help pay premiums for insurance on the open market. This idea is not new, not necessary and not best for Medicare beneficiaries or taxpayers – who would pay more and get less under the Ryan plan. It would “save” Medicare in name only.
Speaker Ryan is intent on privatizing Medicare; that’s the goal. Similar to earlier voucher plans, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost Medicare beneficiaries more than traditional Medicare. This belief that privatization will drive down costs is based on faith, not fact.
Private plans have not saved Medicare money, and often cost more than traditional Medicare.
Further, traditional Medicare has been an adaptable, cost-effective model leading to coverage and payment innovations, access to care and enhanced economic security.
But Medicare has been complicated and made more expensive by adding layers of private options.
And, as Medicare becomes more fragmented and traditional Medicare loses enrollment, it also loses its bargaining power over health care costs and its ability to create positive change in the broader health arena.
Untethered from the overspending and complexities that have been foisted on Medicare by private plans and non-negotiable drug prices, it could once again be a model for affordable health insurance.
These changes would help strengthen traditional Medicare for all beneficiaries:
- Create complete parity between traditional Medicare and private Medicare Advantage, paying no more to Medicare Advantage plans per enrollee than is paid per traditional Medicare beneficiary.
- Add all current benefits only available to Medicare Advantage enrollees to traditional Medicare, including a limit on out-of-pocket spending, help with oral health and vision costs, and waiver of the 3-day prior hospital stay for nursing home coverage.
- Repeal the prohibition on negotiating Medicare prescription drug prices and ensure Medicare pays only the best possible price.
- Add a prescription drug benefit to Part B of traditional Medicare.
- Make Medigap plans accessible to people who want to return to traditional Medicare from Medicare Advantage and insure they are available to all Medicare beneficiaries, including those who qualify due to disability.
The best bet for beneficiaries and taxpayers is to strengthen traditional Medicare – and stop spending unnecessarily for private insurance and prescription drugs.