MEDICARE: Is Reform A Victim Of Politics?
Roll Call's Morton Kondracke writes that although the "premium support" plan offers the best chance to save Medicare before it goes bankrupt in 2008, political and ideological pressures on President Clinton make it doubtful that any action will be taken until after the 2000 elections. The plan, which "would give the nation's seniors the same kind of choice among private health insurance plans that federal employees currently enjoy and a subsidy to pay all or part of the premium," is supported by Republicans and moderate Democrats on the bipartisan national Medicare commission, but opposed by liberal Democrats. With commission rules requiring 11 of 17 votes for a majority recommendation, swing votes go to three Clinton appointees: former White House economic policy chief Laura Tyson, Brandeis University's Stuart Altman and HIP Healthcare of New York CEO Anthony Watson. Kondracke argues that Clinton may be unwilling to use his influence with the appointees to push for premium support, because he "has to decide [what] is more likely to help Vice President Al Gore become President -- a record of having helped secure the big retirement programs or one last use of them as a club to beat Republicans." An aide "close to" Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), a backer of premium supports, "predicted that Clinton and Gore will work to block" the plan. The aide instead foresaw "ads saying 'Republicans won't let Grandma see her favorite doctor'" and "Republicans want to throw your mom to the HMOs" (Kondracke, Roll Call, 12/14).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.