Posts tagged ‘Middle Class’
November 29, 2016 – Despite statements during the campaign that he would protect Medicare, the President-Elect is indicating otherwise with his selections of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to head the Department of Health & Human Services, and health consultant Seema Verma to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Price is an ardent foe of the Affordable Care Act, although it has extended the solvency of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund, closed gaps in prescription drug coverage, and expanded preventive benefits under Medicare.
Particularly threatening to Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries, says Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director, Judith Stein, “Rep. Price favors letting people opt-out of Medicare. Allowing beneficiaries – most likely the healthiest beneficiaries – to opt out of Medicare is an example of what Newt Gingrich in 1995 called letting the program ‘wither on the vine.’ The key to future solvency is a larger coverage pool, not a smaller one. That’s just how insurance works.”
In addition, Mr. Price’s proposals to rely on tax credits as incentives to purchase insurance ignore the fact that a huge number of families don’t make enough income for such credits to be worthwhile. Further, CMS nominee Verma favors Health Savings Accounts – another private option that would break up the Medicare community. “All of these proposals,” continued Ms. Stein, “will be sold to Medicare beneficiaries as ‘preserving’ and ‘protecting’ Medicare. In fact, they will end Medicare and turn it over to the private insurance industry.”
In 1995 Newt Gingrich predicted that privatization efforts would lead Medicare to wither on the vine. He said it was unwise to get rid of Medicare right away, but envisioned a time when it would no longer exist because beneficiaries would move to private insurance plans.
Well … that’s what’s happening. Not just by happenstance, but rather according to a determined, strategic plan. The plan has included the following:
- Government subsidies to private plans, renamed “Medicare Advantage,” ranging from 14% – 2% above traditional Medicare per-beneficiary costs;
- Additional benefits added to private Medicare Advantage, benefits that weren’t added, and aren’t allowed, in traditional Medicare;
- Part D prescription drug coverage wrapped into Medicare Advantage, but not into traditional Medicare;
- Increases in traditional Medicare Part B premiums, especially for the middle class;
- Limits on access to Medigap insurance to supplement traditional Medicare and on benefits for those who can obtain a Medigap policy.
It didn’t take a crystal ball. It took a vision, planning and persistence.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy also has vision, planning and persistence. We do all we can to keep Medicare focused on the needs of older and disabled people, not the insurance industry. We speak out with expertise and with the stories of real people.
With your support, we’ll keep insisting that Medicare is fully present for the families that rely on it – now and in the future. We’re ready to keep Medicare from withering on the vine.
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released a new budget outlook with updated data on expected federal costs of programs including Medicare and Medicaid over the next ten years. According to the CBO, Medicare spending in 2012 grew by only 3% – the lowest rate of growth in over a decade, and a rate much lower than that of the private market. In fact, the Washington Post notes that “From the March 2010 baseline to the current baseline…[CBO] lowered estimates of federal spending for the two programs in 2020 by about $200 billion — by $126 billion for Medicare and by $78 billion for Medicaid, or by roughly 15 percent for each program”.
The new baseline estimates indicate that Medicare is leading the way in controlling costs, and that Medicare has significantly contributed to lowering the nation’s deficit through innovative payment and delivery models as well as reductions in overpayments to private insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.
CBO’s outlook illustrates that Medicare is not the problem, but rather the solution that policymakers should look to for addressing the real issue of overall health care costs affecting payers system-wide. While many look to slash Medicare and Medicaid in the name of deficit reduction through proposals like raising Medicare’s eligibility age or fragmenting the program through further means-testing, the CBO estimates reveal that such proposals are not rooted in fiscal policy. As the Post points out, “…$200 billion out of [Medicare and Medicaid] is nothing to sneeze at; that’s about double the revenue the government would generate by raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.”
The Center for Medicare Advocacy has long maintained that if policymakers are really concerned about strengthening Medicare and reducing the deficit, cutting benefits is the wrong approach – and new polling shows that over 60% of Americans agree. In fact, 85% of Americans strongly favor one of the Center’s Solutions to reduce the deficit: Requiring drug companies to give the government a better deal on medications for people on Medicare. Whether Congress chooses instead to protect the windfall profits of pharmaceutical companies rather than protecting people living on less than $22,000 a year and rely on Medicare to maintain their health remains to be seen.
 Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023, available at http://cbo.gov/publication/43907.
 Washington Post, Wonkblog: Three Ways CBO Expects Health Spending to Change. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/05/three-ways-cbo-expects-health-spending-to-change/
 Center for Medicare Advocacy, Medicare Facts and Fiction: Costs and Spending Edition, available at http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/2013/01/10/medicare-facts-and-fiction-costs-and-spending-edition/
 Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health: The Public’s Health Care Agenda for the 113th Congress, available at http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/8405.cfm.
Millions of people will be left with limited or no access to health care if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is overturned. This will include people of all ages − older and disabled people with Medicare, middle class families, children with asthma and other pre-existing conditions, and adults with on-going medical needs. At this time, when family incomes are stretched to the max, many people are unemployed, and fewer jobs provide health insurance, individuals and families all over the country will lose if the Court strikes down Health Care Reform.
Older and disabled people with Medicare will lose access to preventive health care, help paying for life-saving medications, and an annual health visit. Taxpayers will resume overpayments to private Medicare plans. Children with preexisting conditions will again be subject to discrimination by private health insurance companies. People who would have gained access to coverage under ACA, beginning in 2014, will lose out. This includes adults with pre-existing conditions, those with high out-of-pocket costs, and families with moderate incomes. Young adults who, thanks to ACA, have health coverage under their parents’ plans will also be in jeopardy.
In short, if the Court strikes down the law we all lose. The number of people with inadequate or no health insurance will rise – but those same people will still get sick and injured, and require care. And we will all pay, in emergency rooms, unpaid hospital bills, higher premiums – or simply by catching their illnesses.
Let’s hope the Supreme Court recognizes the national interest in making basic health insurance available to all. If it does, we will all feel better.
As described in his State of the Union address, the President’s blueprint for a lasting economy is both necessary and commendable. An essential part of that blueprint is ensuring all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care. As the President stated, we need to ensure that Medicare “remain[s] a guarantee of security” for older Americans and individuals with disabilities. When private insurance let older people down in the 1960s, Americans embraced the President’s theme of “shared responsibility” to care for our most vulnerable citizens by creating Medicare. While the economic security of the middle class has declined for decades, Medicare has dramatically enhanced the economic and health security of hundreds of millions of older Americans and people with disabilities.
And yet, the future of Medicare hangs in the balance as members of Congress discuss ways to privatize Medicare and diminish the security it provides for middle class families.
“We applaud the President’s commitment to continuing Medicare as a community program that families can rely on,” states Judith Stein, founder and executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “Medicare is an American success story. It has served American families and adapted with the times for more than four decades. It has provided a critical economic lifeline for families” she continued. “We can not afford to risk the security of the next generation by giving Medicare away to private insurance companies.”
The Center for Medicare Advocacy also echoes the President’s call to uphold the consumer protections and health coverage in the Affordable Care Act. “The Affordable Care Act greatly enhanced Medicare,” says David Lipschutz, policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “Since it was signed into law, millions of older and disabled Americans with Medicare have received more help in paying for their prescription drugs, putting money back into their pockets. Among other things, the Affordable Care Act has also added no-cost preventive benefits for people with Medicare and extended the solvency of the program.”
Medicare is a tried and true American value that provides high-quality, cost efficient health care for our grandparents, parents, neighbors and friends. “Pretending to protect Medicare by shifting costs from the federal government back to older people and their families would negate Medicare’s original purpose: to protect older people and their families from illness and financial ruin due to health care costs,” said Judith Stein. “We thank the President for defending Medicare’s guarantee of security and resisting calls for a private voucher system that would further endanger the middle class and destroy the national treasure we’ve known as Medicare.”