MEDICARE REFORM: Cheers, Jeers for Breaux’s Plan
The leader of a pro-Medicare-reform organization yesterday commended Sen. John Breaux, co-chair of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, for his proposal to trim benefits and allow market-based competition. Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, said, "We are glad that Sen. Breaux has recognized the benefits of implementing a market-based, competitive Medicare program. ... He has noted that not all seniors have the same health care needs, and that the market -- not government -- is best-suited to meet those needs." Beckner emphasized that the government must promote a new Medicare market to remain competitive. He said, "We have seen what the Health Care Financing Administration has done to HMOs that wanted to participate in Medicare. Millions of America's seniors were left in the lurch due to HCFA's interference. We have to make sure that the same thing doesn't happen with Sen. Breaux's proposal" (CSE release, 1/27).
No Soup for You!
On the other side of the debate, "[s]taking out a position for liberal Democrats" was Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the New York Times reports. In a speech prepared for delivery today to the National Academy of Social Insurance, Kennedy calls Breaux's proposal "the wrong prescription," arguing that it is "not an acceptable starting point for a Medicare reform plan" as it is "simply too risky" (Pear, 1/28). Kennedy says that under the proposed system, "private insurers would find ways to attract the healthiest of the elderly, leaving conventional Medicare with high costs and higher premiums" (Zitner, Boston Globe, 1/28). He said, "The private plans could underbid conventional Medicare, because quality of care is lower or doctor choice is restricted, or because the market is manipulated to attract only the healthy. As a result, premiums would rise steeply for those who stay in conventional Medicare. Too often, they would be the oldest and sickest beneficiaries" (Times, 1/28). Kennedy plans to back President Clinton's plan to extend Medicare coverage to prescription drugs, "which he says will save the program money by reducing the costlier treatments needed when seniors do not take the proper medications" (Globe, 1/28).