California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New GOP Proposal Aims To Overhaul Medicare, Increase Eligibility Age

On Thursday, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) will unveil a Medicare reform plan that would raise the eligibility age, hasten the transition for many beneficiaries into private insurance plans and increase premiums for high-income beneficiaries, AP/U-T San Diego reports.

The plan has not been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, but the lawmakers say it would save between $200 billion and $500 billion over 10 years. Coburn said they hope the plan will spur a "grown-up" conversation in Congress about the changes necessary to Medicare, which is "our biggest problem."

According to AP/U-T San Diego, the Coburn-Burr plan is unlikely to advance in Congress during an election year. However, several of its components have previously drawn bipartisan support from two debt committees, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and President Obama. Those components include:

  • Limiting private supplemental insurance for seniors;
  • Raising premiums for high-income beneficiaries; and
  • Overhauling copayments to provide additional protections against catastrophic costs.

Like Ryan's 2011 Medicare overhaul plan, the Coburn-Burr plan would gradually raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67.

Burr said his plan also would create "a competitive bid model much like Part D," adding that under the proposal, "some seniors would go for lower premiums and some for higher premiums and richer benefits."

The Coburn-Burr plan would begin the beneficiaries' transition to private insurance plans earlier, in 2016. The plans would compete with a revised version of the existing Medicare program. Although benefit requirements would not be explicitly laid out for the private plans, they would have to meet a test of basic insurance value, AP/U-T San Diego reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/U-T San Diego, 2/16).

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