Washington Post Looks at Bush Administration Efforts To ‘Repair’ Medicare+Choice
The Washington Post today examines the Bush administration's efforts to "repair" the Medicare+Choice program, which is "widely judged to have failed." Medicare+Choice -- established in 1997 as an alternative to traditional fee-for-service Medicare to save the government money while offering greater benefits, such as prescription drug coverage -- has seen a steadily decreasing enrollment over the past four years, in part because hundreds of HMOs have dropped out, citing low reimbursement rates. To drum up support for the program, Bush has dispatched CMS Deputy Administrator Ruben King-Shaw to act as his "chief emissary" on a promotional tour in California, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico and Texas. The White House has suggested "rescu[ing]" the program by increasing payments to health plans by 6.5% annually, a proposal that would cost about $14 billion over ten years. But House Republicans have "balked" at such a large spending package; GOP prescription drug legislation passed last month contained a more modest payment increase. Still, the Post reports that the use of private health plans in Medicare is key to Republicans' vision of the program. Meanwhile, some Democrats believe that Medicare+Choice has "proved so flawed it could not be fixed even with ... billions of dollars" (Goldstein, Washington Post, 7/29). The article is available online.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.