My View: A skunk in the GOP woodpile
May 1, 2014
"Did you hear that Obamacare is taking away billions from Medicare?" my husband exclaimed, with a tinge of panic in his voice.
"Where have you been? I have heard that one repeated every year since Obamacare was proposed", I, the family consumer advocate, retorted. "Look, I said, we both are one of 28 percent on Medicare Advantage that combines Medicare and Medigap. But most likely, we will see no change, Medicare Advantage will continue. At least that is what a survey made by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found. Regardless, our Medicare benefits will not change, either."
"Won't our Medicare Advantage premiums go up?" he countered.
"I am not sure, because as KFF reported, there are many elements that go into determining costs. They only went up a tiny bit this year, like in past years. What I am sure of is that the Medicare Advantage insurance providers had been raking in more from the government than it cost for government to administer Medicare. Those excessive subsidies were cut. Even Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP House guru on budgets, kept cuts to Medicare Advantage in his 2012 planning. Besides, did you notice you had lower co-pays for your prescriptions, and no co-pays for checkups and cancer screenings? That was one of the Obamacare benefits to seniors, closing the donut hole, and a repeal would put us back to where we were before.
"Medicare patients were getting charged for repeat tests and unnecessary readmissions. Now hospitals have to share test records electronically, and since 2012, they had to pay penalties for excessive readmissions. Readmission rates have taken a dive. That cuts costs to Medicare.
"In fact, Congress' own independent Congressional Budget Office predicted all of these measures will add a decade of life to Medicare. Those who want to repeal Obamacare will just be making the time sooner when we must do something to prop Medicare up."
Hubby: "So what happens when Medicare goes broke … shouldn't we make some changes now? What about privatizing Medicare and making people pay more for premiums, giving them money to go buy their own insurance, and cut out government administration?"
"There's a skunk in that woodpile," I answered. "Ryan's newest plan (passed by the House this April; DOA in the Senate) would have given seniors of a choice between keeping Medicare and vouchers (premium support) and not guarantee any of that would keep up with inflating medical costs, increase the retirement age, and the wealthy would not qualify for benefits. We know from Obamacare, even private insurance had sticker shock. Health insurance companies are allowed by law to collude to set prices and benefits, making free market competition no guarantee of lower prices. Ryan claims savings (meaning cuts) to Medicare would be $129 billion over 10 years.
"Privatizing Medicare is not the only way to go. Simpson Bowles deficit reduction Commission proposed keeping Obamacare and government provided Medicare that would keep up with costs. Like Ryan's, though, they would increase the retirement age and not provide benefits to the wealthy.
"Don't worry, though, no politician would ever make changes affecting those already having Medicare or near retirement age; they want your vote."
Sources tapped for the column above at http://www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com