As this is an election year we are going to hear a lot about how and why Medicare should be reformed and we are going to see even more finger pointing and blame. In December Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced a bipartisan proposal to fundamentally reform Medicare.
The proposal would maintain traditional Medicare as an option for all eligible individuals and would require private insurers to offer similar coverage through an exchange. For those individuals interested in purchasing insurance through private insurers the federal government would provide funding to the individual to purchase the private insurance. The level of support would be adjusted for beneficiaries depending on their ability to afford coverage.
The proposal is interesting and could be attractive to Medicare beneficiaries who are interested in insurance options that provide better coverage than traditional Medicare and it would also be attractive to beneficiaries who are relatively healthy. The proposal is a small step in privatizing Medicare which could help limit “overspending” on Medicare services by requiring pre-certs and negotiating rates for services.
I don’t think there’s any way the proposal gains traction but it’s at least something. There’s no quick or easy fix for Medicare and there’s no denying that Medicare spending must be brough under control. I’ve commented many times before that Medicare reform has to be more than payment reductions to providers and the only way for that to happen is though a fundamental change to the Medicare program. Representative Ryan and Senator Wyden will likely never see their proposal come to fruition but they are at least working across party lines and looking for a solution rather than pointing fingers and placing blame which is both refreshing and rare.
Maybe, just maybe, the new year will bring a new commitment to do the right thing in our nation’s capital.