Posts tagged ‘voucher’

Scary Ryan Medicare Plan

The Center for Medicare Advocacy is a national leader for Medicare and the people it serves. “We have represented Medicare beneficiaries since 1986,” says Judith Stein, founder and executive director of the Center. “We’ve seen Medicare coverage save lives and bring peace of mind to thousands of families. We know how Medicare works and what keeps Medicare strong. Mr. Ryan’s plan sounds the death knell for Medicare,” continues Ms. Stein. “The private plans added to Medicare since 2003 have cost Medicare and all its beneficiaries dearly. Unfortunately, Mr. Ryan’s vision is to privatize Medicare.”

The Ryan plan would provide each beneficiary with a limited amount to purchase an individual private policy. The Ryan plan would gut the community Medicare program. It would reduce coverage and increase costs for seniors – while doing nothing to address the real problem of rising overall health costs.

“Medicare has dramatically increased access to health care and economic security for millions of older and disabled people and their families since 1965. Mr. Ryan’s plan puts all this in jeopardy. He purports to save Medicare – but will actually end the Medicare program as we know it.”

More Information:

CMA Heath Policy Post: “Medicare ‘Reform’ – Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” at: https://cmahealthpolicy.com/2011/12/16/medicare-reform-beware-the-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/

CMA Alert: “So What Would You Do? real Solutions for Medicare Solvency and Reducing the Deficit” at: http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/2011/06/09/so-what-would-you-do-real-solutions-for-medicare-solvency-and-reducing-the-deficit/

August 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm Leave a comment

Quick!

Stop paying anything more to Medicare Advantage plans than to traditional Medicare. Listen to the GAO and stop all bonus payments to private Medicare plans. Start negotiating what Medicare pays for prescription drugs. Then recalculate Medicare’s fiscal solvency and begin serious discussions about Medicare’s future.

Constant calls for changing Medicare into a Voucher system will simply increase privatization of Medicare. Once again we’ll give taxpayer dollars to the insurance industry, increase costs to older people, disabled people, and their familes – and do nothing to address the needs of tomorrow.

Change the conversation. Insist on real solutions.

April 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm Leave a comment

No Medicare For Mitt

How much does Mitt Romney really care about Medicare’s solvency? A lot. So much that he has decided not to enroll or use it at all – even though he’s turning 65.

What should we take from this? One thing for sure, Mitt Romney can afford a whole lot more financial risk than most Americans. Unless he has private insurance that will pay as the primary policy even after he’s Medicare eligible, Mr. Romney is accepting a huge liability if he intends to pay for his own heath care. Either way, he’s in a very different position than the vast majority of older and disabled Americans who MUST rely on Medicare to help pay for their health care and can not obtain insurance that will take its place.

Is Romney going to lead a battallion of well-to-do Americans out of Medicare? Leaving behind those who can not afford to pay either for their own care or for preciously rare primary insurance available to people eligible for Medicare. What a shame that would be.

Mr. Romney should enroll and rely on Medicare coverage like most Americans do when they turn 65. As a would-be national leader he should experience firsthand what works and what doesn’t, what coverage is and should be available. He should be part of the Medicare community and help it stay viable for all those who look to this national treasure to help pay for health care.

If Mr. Romney really cares about Medicare he should vote for it with his feet.

March 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

Tell the Truth!

This week, Republican presidential candidates vie for their party’s nomination in Florida, where millions of residents rely on Medicare as a health and economic lifeline for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, some candidates are scaring seniors – making clearly incorrect and harmful statements about the effect of the Affordable Care Act on Medicare.
(See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/santorum-warns-florida-seniors-that-obama-health-care-law-will-force-doctors-to-leave-medicare/2012/01/23/gIQAzX4VLQ_story.html.)

As the Center for Medicare Advocacy has reported since the passage of the landmark legislation, Health Care Reform does NOT hurt Medicare benefits. In fact, it expands and improves benefits for all people with Medicare while saving our nation and taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade.

Most recently, former Senator Santorum made significant misstatements about Medicare. Contrary to his statements, people with Medicare are NOT losing their doctors and are NOT facing rationing because of Health Care Reform. In fact, the Medicare payment board he mentions does not even exist yet. When it does begin, it will be charged with keeping overall Medicare costs down and will be specifically prohibited from reducing benefits.

Additionally, Mr. Santorum’s desire to “fix” Medicare by privatizing it and giving taxpayer money to insurance companies makes you wonder who he really wants to help. Privatizing Medicare and repealing health reform, which he also recommends, won’t help Florida’s older people or their families, but it would provide a windfall to the insurance industry. The traditional community Medicare program has helped generations of Americans at far less cost than private insurance. And health care reform has already enhanced Medicare, adding preventive benefits with no cost-sharing and reducing costs for prescription drugs.

If the Senator is truly concerned for the care of Florida’s people who rely on Medicare and the program’s integrity, he should get the facts straight and speak the truth about Medicare and health care reform. To start, he can visit the Center’s “Solutions for Strengthening Medicare” for common-sense ways to improve and expand the program while saving billions of dollars. www.medicareadvocacy.org.

January 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

CMA in the New York Times: Don’t Privatize Medicare

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/10/opinion/medicare-and-private-health-insurance.html

December 18, 2011 at 3:37 am Leave a comment

Medicare “Reform” – Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

This week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) outlined yet another effort to privatize Medicare; a twist on Rep. Ryan’s voucher plan from earlier this year.

The new proposal would supposedly “preserve” the traditional Medicare program, but force it to compete with private plans. Similar to the earlier Ryan voucher plan, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost Medicare beneficiaries twice as much as traditional Medicare, this one is based on the flawed assumption that private plans will save Medicare money through competition and innovation. The belief that privatization will drive down costs is not based in fact.

On the contrary, private plans have not saved Medicare money, and often cost more than traditional Medicare. In fact, traditional Medicare — not private plans — has been the leader in innovations to keep health costs down and increase quality.

Under the latest Ryan privatization plan, beneficiaries would have a voucher to purchase a health plan (including traditional Medicare), and there would be a cap on the overall amount of Medicare spending per beneficiary. If a plan (including traditional Medicare) cost more than the voucher amount, then the beneficiary would have to pay the difference between the actual price and the voucher.

If traditional Medicare is forced to compete with private, for-profit plans, as Ryan proposes, private plans will work to minimize their spending, and woo the least costly beneficiaries. If beneficiaries that are more expensive to treat remain in traditional Medicare, it will be at a built-in competitive disadvantage, and might well become unsustainable.

The math is pretty simple. If beneficiaries pay more for health care, the federal government will save money. That’s where these federal savings come from. But this approach won’t do anything to reduce overall health care spending, which is the real problem. Instead, it will likely lead to reduction in benefits and increase cost-sharing for Medicare beneficiaries. Don’t be fooled into thinking this proposal protects and preserves Medicare – it eliminates a unified program.

Traditional Medicare has changed dramatically since its inception in 1965. It has been a cost-effective health care insurance model leading to innovation, access to care and economic security. But Medicare has been complicated and made more expensive by adding layers of private options. Further, as Medicare becomes more and more fragmented and traditional Medicare loses enrollment, it loses its bargaining power over health care costs and its ability to create innovations in the broader health system.

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. Traditional Medicare needs to be strengthened with fewer, not more private options.

December 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

CMA Responds to the NY Times: Don’t Privatize Medicare!

Dec. 4, 2011

The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

Your December 4, 2011 editorial (”What About Premium Support?” ) about changing Medicare into a voucher system wisely states many of the problems with public subsidies of private health insurance for Medicare beneficiaries. All such experiments have cost more and provided less value to those in need of coverage.

I have been an advocate for Medicare beneficiaries for almost 35 years. I’ve seen numerous forays into privatizing Medicare. Clinton-era plans, Medicare Plus Choice, Medicare Advantage: none of them have provided better coverage more cost-effectively than the traditional Medicare program.

I don’t recommend a private plan to my mother. That should be a good test for anyone championing premium support.

Additionally, ever-increasing private options have made Medicare too complex, especially given the very limited number of advocates available to help beneficiaries understand, choose and navigate the system.

Call it what you will, ”premium support” is the latest jingle for privatizing Medicare. It’s not a new or creative idea, and it will only add more costs and confusion. What we need is an objective look at what’s needed to encourage participation and cost efficiencies in traditional Medicare, not further adventures in privatization.

JUDITH STEIN
Executive Director
Center for Medicare Advocacy

December 12, 2011 at 8:09 pm Leave a comment

Class Warfare? Discuss.

To reduce the deficit, the President suggests we increase taxes for the 430,000 Americans who have incomes above $1 million. The Republican leadership (Boehner, Ryan, McConnell and Graham) say that’s class warfare.  They say it’s unfair to balance the budget at the expense of these few rich people (0.3% of the population).  Instead, they say, we should look to reduce spending – only.  In particular, we should cut Medicaid and Medicare.  

47  million older and disabled Americans are enrolled in Medicare.  58 million poor children, pregnant women, older and disabled people are enrolled in Medicaid. 

Query:  Why is it class warfare to tax a little more the few of us who are lucky enough to be millionaires, but it’s not class warfare to cut health care coverage for the vast number of us who are enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid?   Discuss.

September 18, 2011 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

Six Solutions for Medicare Solvency and Reducing the Deficit

As lawmakers debate the future of Medicare as part of broader efforts to address the federal deficit, proposals have emerged that would have severe repercussions for beneficiaries and their families.[1] Sound solutions that would protect Medicare coverage while reducing costs to taxpayers have not been seriously addressed.  The six solutions we propose would accomplish both of these goals. 

These solutions, unlike many current proposals, do not shift costs to beneficiaries or completely restructure the Medicare program. They promote choice and competition while shoring up the solvency of Medicare. Adopting these solutions would be a responsible step in reducing our deficit the right way.

 1.  Negotiate Drug Prices with Pharmaceutical Companies

The Medicare prescription drug law passed in 2003 prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies.  These companies gained 47 million customers when Medicare began covering prescription drugs, but they did not have to adjust their prices in return.  Requiring the Secretary to negotiate drug prices for Medicare would save taxpayers billions of dollars – potentially over $200 billion over ten years.[2] Taxpayers currently pay nearly 70% more for drugs in the Medicare program than through the Veteran’s Administration, which has direct negotiating power.[3] Savings realized from reducing Medicare drug cuts could be used to improve benefits for beneficiaries and reduce the deficit.

 2.  Stop Paying Private Medicare Plans Anything More Than Traditional Medicare

According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), Medicare pays, on average, 10% more for beneficiaries enrolled in private insurance (Medicare Advantage or MA plans) than for comparable beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare.[4] Despite these extra payments, beneficiaries in private plans who are in poor health, or who have chronic conditions, often have more limitations on coverage than they would under traditional Medicare.[5]

A large portion of the overpayments made to private plans actually goes to insurers rather than to benefit Medicare beneficiaries.[6] Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changed the payment formula for Medicare Advantage plans, some plans will continue to be paid as much as 115% of the average traditional Medicare payment rate for their county when the new rates are fully implemented. MedPAC estimates that by 2017Medicare Advantage payment benchmarks will average 101% of traditional Medicare.  ACA also provides additional payments for plans that receive high quality ratings, increasing the likelihood that some MA plans will continue to be paid more than under traditional Medicare.  Reducing private MA payments to 100% of traditional Medicare, as MedPAC proposed before the enactment of ACA, will increase the solvency of the Medicare program and curb costs for taxpayers.  Private plans simply should not receive higher pay than traditional Medicare.

 3.  Include a Drug Benefit in Traditional Medicare

Offering a drug benefit in traditional Medicare would give beneficiaries a choice they do not now have, encourage people to stay in traditional Medicare, and save money for taxpayers.  It would also provide an alternative to unchecked private plans that leave many with unexpected high out-of-pocket costs. A drug benefit in traditional Medicare would protect beneficiaries against expensive and sometimes abusive marketing practices.  Further, traditional Medicare’s lower administrative costs could free up money for quality care, would result in lower drug prices for beneficiaries, and save taxpayers over $20 billion a year.[7]

4.  Extend Medicaid Drug Rebates to Medicare  Beneficiaries Who Are Dually Eligible or Part D Low-Income Subsidy Participants

Dual eligibles (people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid) comprise one-fourth of all Medicare drug users, and are among the most costly beneficiaries. Because Medicare, rather than Medicaid, covers most of their drugs and because Medicare cannot negotiate drug prices, their drugs are not eligible for the same rebates as they would be under the traditional Medicaid program. Extending these rebates for dually eligible people as well as for those who qualify for the Part D Low-Income Subsidy – the poorest Medicare beneficiaries –  would save approximately $135 billion over ten years.[8]

5.  Lower the Age of  Medicare Eligibility

People between 55 and 65 who are not disabled are currently unable to enroll in Medicare.  Lowering the age of eligibility to enroll this healthier population  in the Medicare program would add revenue from  people who will likely need less care and fewer services than older and disabled enrollees.

6.  Let the Affordable Care Act Do Its Job

The Affordable Care Act includes many measures to control costs as well as models for reform that will increase the solvency of the Medicare program and lower the deficit while protecting Medicare’s guaranteed benefits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing or defunding ACA would add $230 billion to the deficit while ignoring the real issue of rising overall health care costs, which contribute heavily to the growing national debt. ACA includes strong measures to allow CMS to combat fraud, waste, and abuse that will bring down costs, as well as a variety of pilot and demonstration projects that aim to bring better care and quality to beneficiaries.[9] The bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission recommended that these projects be  implemented as quickly as possible.[10] Allowing ACA to do its job will create a foundation on which to build by improving care and holding down costs for taxpayers.

Conclusion 

“Protecting Medicare” by shifting costs from the federal government to beneficiaries and their families – whether through a voucher program or  spending caps or other draconian measures  – is a perversion of Medicare’s original intent: to protect older people and their families from illness and financial ruin due to health care costs.  The Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Six Solutions promote the financial welfare of Medicare and the country, without doing so at the expense of older and disabled people.


[1]See previous Alerts from the Center, “Why Medicaid Matters to Medicare Beneficiaries and Their Families”, “What Happens to Current Nursing Home Residents if House Budget Resolution Becomes Law?”
[2]National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, available at http://www.ncpssm.org/pdf/price_negotiation_part_d.pdf
[3]Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Negotiating Prices with Drug Companies Could Save Medicare $30 Billion”, March 2007, available at http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/negotiating-prices-with-drug-companies-could-save-medicare-30-billion.
[4]MedPAC, Report to the Congress, March 2011, Chapter 12 (March 2011), available at http://www.medpac.gov/documents/Mar11_EntireReport.pdf.
[5] Neuman P. Medicare Advantage: Key Issues and Implications for Beneficiaries. Testimony before the House Committee on the Budget, United States House of Representatives, June 28, 2007, available at http://www.allhealth.org/briefingmaterials/NeumanTestimony-830.pdf,
[6] Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. March 2009 Report to Congress, Chapter 3: The Medicare Advantage Program. P. 251-253, available at http://www.medpac.gov/chapters/Mar09_Ch03.pdf.
[7]Senator Dick Durbin, available at http://durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=555cc1e8-cc54-4ead-9d85-d5e6275b3789.
[8]
Office of Management and Buget Congressional Budget Office, Living Within Our Means (September, 2011);  Letter to Honorable Charles Rangel, available at http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/104xx/doc10464/hr3200.pdf
[9]See previous Alert from the Center, “Combating Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Health Care.”
[10]The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, “The Moment of Truth,” December 2010.

September 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

Medicare and Jobs: Not Mutually Exclusive!

The more people have health insurance, including  Medicare, the more they stay healthy and are able to work.  If health insurance is provided by Medicare or health care reform or any avenue outside the tired employer-based system, it reduces costs for employers and encourages hiring.  Ask any employer.

Continuing to tie health insurance to employment only continues a system that COSTS jobs. It creates a disincentive for employers to hire.  It creates an incentive for the new employment reality:  Freelance, contract work, part-time, whatever you want to call the newly underemployed who do not have benefits and for whom employers do not pay into Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment, or Workers Comp.  This is a big problem for everyone involved, including individual workers, their families, AND the solvency of important programs that Americans value and that have lifted generations out of poverty and provided fair access to health care. 

Pay attention, people!  We not only can have Medicare and jobs – we will have more jobs if we  increase access to Medicare and health care.  Don’t raid Medicare to pay for jobs.  That will only reduce access to both.

September 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

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