Congress Should ‘Think Carefully’ Before Raising Medicare Provider Payments, Washington Post Says
Following its failure to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit this summer, Congress is "waking up to the fact that even the existing package of Medicare benefits has grown hard to sustain," according to a Washington Post editorial. Last week, several insurers announced market withdrawals that could mean up to 200,000 beneficiaries will lose Medicare+Choice coverage. The Post writes, "There are two reasons for Congress to worry about this, and neither is powerful." The first is that beneficiaries losing M+C coverage will get a "worse deal," losing benefits such as prescription drug or eyeglass coverage. However, the Post states that Congress should not "throw extra money at preserving the prescription drug benefit of Medicare+Choice patients when the rest of the retiree population doesn't have one." Second, the insurers' exit from the program could "jeopardiz[e] the long-term project of introducing private competition into Medicare," but the Post suggests that "it's not clear that [private insurers] are more efficient than the government." While M+C plans and Medicare providers are lobbying Congress for higher reimbursements, lawmakers "should think carefully before voting extra money based on [the] patchy data" that health lobbies are presenting, the Post says, noting, "These lobbies always want more." The editorial adds that "the evidence is not convincing" to show that Medicare beneficiaries face obstacles to care because of low reimbursements. The Post concludes that more money for providers "will be ill spent," adding, "The budget is already stretched to its limit" (Washington Post, 9/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.