MEDICARE REFORM: Panel Forges Consensus On Some Issues
Speaking at an American Enterprise Institute forum, National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare member Deborah Steelman said the panel "has 'moved forward on several significant things,' including a consensus that Medicare Parts A and B should be merged." Steelman, a benefits attorney, also said the commission members "may reach consensus on modernizing the benefits package to better reflect what's available in the under-65 market." She also said the panel may agree to include "'beneficiary planning' and a 'wealth creation mechanism,' presumably in the form of some kind of private savings account, to 'reduce beneficiary risk,' which she says is 'huge' under the current system." The commission is also considering the issue of "[c]ompetitive pricing." According to Steelman, the commission "will produce a strong report, though likely not a unanimous one, suggesting significant reforms."
Not A Political Reality?
At the same forum, AEI resident scholar Norman Ornstein said Medicare reform "'is just simply not under consideration' by congressional leaders in their daily meetings" (Health Legislation, 5/6 issue). He said "the political atmosphere over the next several months -- particularly the growing partisanship over White House scandal issues -- could swamp the commission's ability to reach agreement." Gail Wilensky, chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, said "the timing of this particular panel could not be worse." She said "1999 is not a bipartisan year" given the approaching presidential and congressional elections in 2000. However, "it is far too early to write the panel off," according to Steelman. "I urge people not to buy into the pessimism that this commission can't do anything," she said (Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/5). Don't forget to check out the Medicare commission's Website, located at http://thomas.loc.gov/medicare/.