Debt Panel Discussions Could Lead to Structural Changes in Medicare
During debt panel discussions, members of both parties stood behind "premium support" within Medicare, which could lead to major structural changes to the program, according to lawmakers and health policy experts, the New York Times reports.
Some experts say that even though the panel last week failed to reach a deficit-reduction deal, the group's work could frame the Medicare debate during next year's elections and beyond.
Details of Premium Support
Republicans traditionally have supported premium support, which would give Medicare beneficiaries a fixed amount of money to purchase coverage from competing private plans. GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in the last two weeks have endorsed variations of premium support in Medicare.
Meanwhile, some Democrats on the debt panel said that a premium support plan could work if it included enough protections for Medicare beneficiaries.
In addition, Alice Rivlin, former budget director under President Clinton, urged the panel to form an insurance exchange for beneficiaries that would allow private plans to compete with traditional Medicare coverage.
ComparisonsÂ WithÂ GOP's Proposed Budget Plan
The Democrats' support came despite objections to previous plans to institute premium support within Medicare (Pear, New York Times, 11/24). Democratic lawmakers sharply criticized a Medicare reform plan that was the centerpiece of the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34). The plan would have privatized the program by providing beneficiaries with fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance (California Healthline, 4/28).
Critics of the proposal often cited a report by the Congressional Budget Office that found the plan would cause most seniors to "pay more for their health care than they would under the current Medicare system." The report also found that some seniors would choose to not purchase coverage, which would increase the number of elderly residents without health plans.
Some health policy experts said these problems were specific to the House-approved budget resolution and would not necessarily result from all premium support plans. For example, the GOP budget resolution eventually would have eliminated traditional Medicare for new beneficiaries (New York Times, 11/24).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.