Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Truely Bipartisan Health Care Reform

Unlike Obamacare, the Wyden-Ryan plan is truely a bipartisan effort, that does not dump any grandma's off a cliff. From Senator Wyden's website:

Bipartisan Health Options

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced a new proposal that represents a major advance in the effort to build a more secure future for the millions of seniors who rely on Medicare.

The new report from Sen. Wyden and Rep. Ryan, titled “Guaranteed Choices to Strengthen Medicare and Health Security for All: Bipartisan Options for the Future,” outlines a detailed proposal to offer expanded health care choices for older Americans while preserving a traditional Medicare plan as an option. The report also proposes to give Americans under 65 more power and freedom to purchase insurance products they can carry with them into retirement.


Why do you say Wyden-Ryan won’t “end Medicare as we know it?”  Won’t allowing seniors to choose private health plans be a major change?

First of all, the hallmark of Medicare is not its structure but its guarantee that every American will have high quality health benefits as they get older.  And, as has been mentioned before, “Medicare as we know it” will end in 2022 if nothing is done to change its current course.  Wyden-Ryan takes action to ensure the Guarantee is preserved.

Contrary to what many believe, every Medicare beneficiary does not currently get their Medicare from the government-administered Medicare insurance plan.  Many seniors are already getting their Medicare from private health insurance plans.  In Oregon, for example, 56 percent of seniors currently get all or some of their health coverage from a private plan. (15 percent of Oregon seniors purchase private Medigap policies to supplement their traditional Medicare, while 41 percent of Oregon's Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in private health insurance plans through Medicare Advantage.)Wyden-Ryan would allow seniors to continue to choose between the traditional government-administrated Medicare option and privately administered plans.  But instead of maintaining separate programs, Wyden would make those private plans more robust and accountable by forcing them to – for the first time – compete directly with traditional Medicare.

Every private plan that participates in the program would be required to offer health benefits that are AT LEAST as comprehensive as those offered by traditional Medicare and premium support payments would be pegged to the actual cost of health care in a given area, determined by an annual competitive bidding process.  Therefore, every senior – whether they get their health insurance from a private plan or the government – will be guaranteed to have the high quality health benefits that has long been Medicare’s promise.

How will Wyden-Ryan ensure that private insurance companies don’t take advantage of seniors?

All participating private plans will be required to offer benefits that are at least as comprehensive as traditional Medicare, with such standards enforced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Any plan that is found taking advantage of seniors or providing inadequate care will be kicked out of the system. Cherry picking healthier seniors will be made unprofitable by robust risk-adjustment, and the Medicare Exchange where plans will seek to offer coverage to seniors, will be policed by the federal government.

It is worth noting that the Medigap law Senator Wyden authored to regulate the private market for Medicare’s supplemental insurance market has been protecting seniors from unscrupulous insurance practices for more than two decades.

How will Wyden-Ryan guarantee that health care will be affordable for all seniors? Isn’t it just a voucher?

A voucher suggests giving seniors a fixed amount of money indexed by a set rate of growth that may/may not have anything to do with the actual growth of health insurance costs.  Vouchers would not guarantee that seniors could afford health coverage.  (This is what the last year’s House Republican Budget did.)

Wyden-Ryan does not give seniors vouchers.  Instead Wyden-Ryan would guarantee that seniors can afford their health insurance premiums by giving seniors premium support payments, the amount of which will be determined by the actual cost of insurance premiums each year.

It would do this through a competitive bidding process in which private insurance plans, wanting to cover Medicare beneficiaries, would submit their benefit packages and the amount they will charge in premiums for the upcoming year.  The amount seniors receive in premium support will be determined by either the cost of traditional Medicare premiums or the second cheapest private plan available on the exchange (whichever is cheaper.)  This process will take place each year, so if health care costs – and therefore insurance premiums -- grow dramatically from one year to the next, so will the premiums support payments that seniors get to pay for them – thus ensuring that every senior can afford their health insurance premiums.

And again, every private plan in the Medicare exchange will be required to offer benefits that are at least as comprehensive as those offered by traditional Medicare. [...]

It's not a "Radical Plan to Kill Medicare". It actually builds on the Medicare options that already exist, in a way that will both control costs and offer more choices. And it's a plan we can actually afford!

It's definitely worth reading the whole thing. It's pretty much the same Medicare plan that Paul Ryan is advocating on his website.

In an interview for Human Events, Ryan explains the history of bipartisan support for the reforms he's advocating.


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