Posts filed under ‘Health Care Reform Repeal’

Medicare Lessons for Senator Cruz

Alice Bers, JD – Litigation Attorney

Senator Ted Cruz’s long speech on the Senate floor against “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act)might have been a remarkable spectacle and certainly led to a lot of press coverage. But many of his statements do real harm. Declarations like “you don’t want an IRS agent deciding if your mom lives or dies,” lead to people calling our office in fear that they will lose their health insurance. (For the record, people on Medicare will stay on Medicare.) The relentless efforts by Senator Cruz and others to turn people against Obamacare, to the point of telling them not to sign up for health insurance they may desperately need, brought to mind a contrast with the implementation of Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit that was passed under President George W. Bush.

In 2006 people were starting to enroll in Medicare Part D. It was not the drug benefit that many of us in the Medicare advocacy world wanted. It was administered by numerous private insurance companies rather than being a straightforward, public Medicare benefit. Its structure was difficult to explain, with a big “donut hole” that left many vulnerable people with high out of pocket costs. It prohibited Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices from manufacturers. We voiced these complaints and advocated for a different kind of drug coverage. But Part D was the drug benefit we got. It was the law, and we knew people on Medicare who were in desperate need of prescription drug coverage, even if that coverage was imperfect. Many of us had clients who split pills, skipped doses, or had to choose between medicine and food.

So we went to trainings, gave talks at senior centers, helped people choose plans, and helped resolve problems that prevented some from getting their medications smoothly. Once Part D got started – and it was a rocky start – we even filed lawsuits to make sure that people were actually getting the Part D benefits they were supposed to get, improving the existing program. We did not try to prevent Part D’s implementation, “defund” it, spread falsehoods about it, or try to make it fail.. We tried to make sure people could make the best possible use of Part D, because people needed their medications. We did and still do advocate for changes to Part D (like closing the donut hole, finally being accomplished by Obamacare!). Today there are millions of people who need health insurance and cannot get it. Obamacare will help them get that insurance. (Luckily, there are also people working hard to enroll the uninsured.) This new program may not be perfect, but obstructing its implementation, scaring away people who truly need insurance coverage, placing political gain over the urgent medical needs of real people – those tactics should be out of bounds.

September 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

ACA is Good for Medicare!

Misconceptions and misinformation about the Affordable Care Act are still too many to innumerate. However, as advocates for Medicare beneficiaries and a strong Medicare program, we can tell you that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is good for beneficiaries and good for the stability of a full and fair Medicare program. ACA has already added significantly to Medicare-covered preventive services – with no beneficiary cost-sharing, continues to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for people under Medicare Part D, is phasing out wasteful overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans and added over a decade to Medicare’s long-term solvency.

Happy Anniversary, ACA. As my grandmother would say, “You should live and be well!”

March 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

Ryan Retread: Ideology Trumps Medicare Protection and Deficit Reduction

The Ryan plan for 2013 is the same as the Ryan plan for 2012 and 2011: Privatize Medicare and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Once again the Ryan budget proposes to preserve Medicare in name only. It would change Medicare into a defined voucher system, sending beneficiaries into the marketplace to purchase indiivual insurance plans. These ideas were at the heart of the 2012 election. They are about changing the way government and Medicare work, not about saving Medicare or money. The proposals were rejected at the polls.

If Medicare and the deficit are really our concern, there are real savings possible that would not harm older and disabled people: Bring down the prices Medicare pays for drugs. Stop all overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans. Add a prescription drug benefit to traditional Medicare. Lower the age of eligibility for Medicare. Let the Affordable Care Act work.

Mr. Ryan, move on! Join us in focusing on real solutions.

March 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm 1 comment

Medicare and … the Military?

I read David Brooks’ New York Times editorial yesterday with dismay. It seems Medicare is not only to blame for the federal deficit, but also for Sen. Hagel’s nomination and the end of America’s military might. I have been representing Medicare beneficiaries and studying Medicare since 1977. Even I was surprised by these positions.

The determination to slash Medicare seems never ending. One hardly knows where to begin responding. But we need to try, before it’s too late. Before the next deficit cutting activities get underway, we need to set the record straight.

The basic, public Medicare program was a cost-effective success. Medicare brought access to health care to older people who were refused private health insurance. It dramatically decreased poverty among older people. Unnecessary payments to private Medicare plans, unrestricted payments for prescription drugs and policies aimed at privatizing Medicare increased the program’s costs exponentially. These expensive provisions should be the targets for those whose true goal is to reduce the deficit. If the will exists, there is a way to reduce costs while preserving Medicare’s promise.
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Watch this short video from the Kaiser Family Foundation: http://www.kff.org/medicare/medicare-timeline2.cfm. It will remind you why Medicare matters.

January 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

The Medicare Debate

Medicare was in the spotlight in the Vice Presidential debate as the candidates outlined their respective plans for the program millions of American families rely on. Unfortunately, some pervasive myths were also highlighted regarding the impact of health care reform and the Ryan plan on Medicare and the 49 million Americans who count on it. [Check out the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Facebook and Twitter pages (Follow @CMAorg) for a full list of Medicare Myths and Facts from the debate.]

One of the myths that was repeated during the debate is the familiar claim that the Affordable Care Act cuts Medicare by $700 billion – the same claim that has been debunked time and again. In fact the $700 billion in savings are largely a result of rolling back unnecessary, wasteful overpayments to private Medicare insurance plans. Congressman Ryan’s budget plans have included these same $700 billion reductions; however, instead of ending overpayments to private insurance companies with the savings, Ryan’s plans would give private insurance companies an even larger share of Medicare expenditures.

The Ryan Plan to end Medicare would provide each individual with an annual allowance with which to purchase a health plan in the private market, would raise costs for current and future beneficiaries, and would repeal important Medicare benefit improvements, added by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA Medicare improvements include extending the solvency of the Medicare Trust fund, lowering prescription drug costs, adding new coverage for preventive services, and eliminating cost-sharing for most such services, such as mammograms and prostate screenings.

Mr. Ryan and other policy-makers often talk about waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare. Yet too often these same policy-makers plan to extend private Medicare to restructure the entire Medicare program. They claim this will save money for Medicare, taxpayers, and beneficiaries. But a new study, once again, confirms just the opposite.

In a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Health Services, researchers report that “Medicare has overpaid private insurers by $282.6 billion, or 24.4 percent of all MA payments, since 1985. In 2012 alone…MA plans are being overpaid by $34.1 billion, or 6.2 per¬cent of total Medicare spending”. This means nearly a quarter of all payments to private insurance companies in Medicare, subsidized with taxpayer dollars, have been unnecessary overpayments that have gone to profit margins and administrative costs, not health care services. Talk about waste!

The authors of the International Journal study conclude that the decades-long experiment with privatizing Medicare should end. Instead, policies should be developed to focus on the real issues of overall health costs and access to coverage. However, if the Ryan plan takes effect, the wastefully expensive private Medicare program will be expanded. Meanwhile, the cost-effective traditional Medicare program will be allowed to wither, and beneficiaries will become responsible for dramatic increases in out-of-pocket costs.

Mr. Ryan’s plan continues wasteful overpayments to private insurance companies at the expense of beneficiaries and taxpayers. It is not a plan to preserve Medicare, protect older and disabled people, or reduce health care costs.

October 12, 2012 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

We Don’t Need the Ryan Plan − Medicare Is NOT Going Broke

According to researchers from the Urban Institute, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Medicare’s purported dire financial condition isn’t actually all that dire. Given the aging of our population, increases in enrollment have obviously contributed to spending growth. But, according to the Urban Institute, “in recent years “spending growth per enrollee slowed in Medicare and Medicaid, and per-enrollee growth rates in the next decade are projected to be very close to the expected growth in [Gross Domestic Product] per capita. These data do not support the need for major restructuring of either program.” (emphases added)[1]

In short, contrary to repeated assertions, Medicare is not broke, going “bankrupt” or running out of funds,[2]. Further, Medicare provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have improved Medicare’s economic outlook − extending the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 8 years.[3]

The real problem that needs to be addressed is rising overall health care costs. Overall healthcare expenditures per capita in the United States are higher than in any other country, and show no signs of slowing.[4] Addressing US health system costs in general is the only real solution to the fiscal issues ahead. The Affordable Care Act addresses many of these pressing concerns. Let it work.

[1] Holahan, J., McMorrow, S. Medicare, Medicaid and the Deficit Debate. Washington DC: Urban Institute, April 2012. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, August 2012.
[2] See, e.g., “Medicare is Not Bankrupt” by Paul N. Van de Water, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (April 24, 2012), available at:http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index
[3] See, e.g., CMS Press Release: “Medicare Stable, But Requires Strengthening” (April 23, 2012), available at:http://www.cms.gov/apps/media/press/release.asp
[4] See, e.g. Kaiser family Foundation at http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot

August 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

Fight for Medicare

The so-called Medicare wars are really a unilateral assault to the community Medicare program by those who favor privatization. Private plans are well known to cost more within and outside of Medicare. For decades, various experiments with private Medicare plans have proved more expensive than traditional Medicare. Nothing in Mr. Ryan’s plan is new or any more likely to save Medicare money. In fact, his plan would reintroduce vast overpayments to private Medicare plans that were rolled back by the Affordable Care Act. If the goal is to save Medicare, provide fair access to health care for its beneficiaries, and reduce spending – defeat efforts to turn Medicare into a private voucher system.

August 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

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