“Kaiser Foundation Report Backs The Critics”: 60% Of Seniors Would Pay More For Medicare Under Romney-Ryan Voucher Plan
A new study out today by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation confirms what many have been saying for a very long time—the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan would result in six out of ten seniors paying substantially more for the same Medicare benefits they receive today.
The premium support approach to Medicare involves the government providing seniors with a set amount of money each year—pegged to the second lowest priced private health care plan available—in an effort to turn over health care for seniors to the private insurance market. While proponents of the approach believe that this will generate more competition in health care, make seniors more responsible for how they spend their health care dollars and result in less spending on seniors by the federal government, critics have argued that the sum of money the government would pay would be insufficient to cover the rising costs of health care, leaving seniors exposed to having to pay an ever growing portion of their health insurance coverage.
The Kaiser report backs up the critics.
According to Kaiser, the premium support approach (often referred to as a voucher plan) to Medicare—the hallmark of the Paul Ryan Medicare plan that has been endorsed and adopted by Governor Romney—would mean higher premium costs for more than half of beneficiaries currently enrolled in traditional Medicare—if such a program were in place today—while raising the costs for nearly all of those who participate in a Medicare Advantage program.
The study further found that the additional costs to seniors would vary from region to region, with areas of high per-capita Medicare spending seeing a cost boost for 80 percent of Medicare recipients.
While the Obama campaign was quick to trumpet the results of the study as further proof that the Romney-Ryan plan would mean dramatically higher costs to seniors when it comes to their healthcare, the Romney campaign fired back, noting that the Kaiser report says that it is not intended to model any specific proposal of either campaign.
The Romney troops are right to a point—but they somehow failed to fully quote what the Kaiser Family Foundation had to say, no doubt an inadvertent error that we shall seek to correct here—
“The analysis does not attempt to model any specific proposal, but is generally based on an approach included in House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal year 2013 budget plan (emphasis added), the proposal Chairman Ryan co-sponsored with Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and; in the plan put forward by former Senator Pete Domenici and Dr. Alice Rivlin. In the first two proposals, people who are at least 55 years old, including current beneficiaries, would be exempt from the new system. Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney has supported a premium-support system along these lines. (emphasis added.)”
Here are the bullet points of the study results, including how you might be affected based on where you live:
- Nearly six in 10 Medicare beneficiaries nationally could face higher premiums for Medicare benefits, assuming current plan preferences, including more than half of beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare and almost nine in 10 Medicare Advantage enrollees. Even if as many as one-quarter of all beneficiaries moved into a low-cost plan offered in their area, the new system would still result in more than a third of all beneficiaries facing higher premiums.
- Premiums for traditional Medicare would vary widely based on geography under the proposed premium support system, with no increase for beneficiaries living in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, but an average increase of at least $100 per month in California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada and New York. Such variations would exist even within a state, with traditional Medicare premiums remaining unchanged in California’s San Francisco and Sacramento counties and rising by more than $200 per month in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
- At least nine in 10 Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey would face higher premiums in their current plan. Many counties in those states have relatively high per-beneficiary Medicare spending, which would make it more costly to enroll in traditional Medicare rather than one of the low-bidding private plans in those counties. In contrast, in areas with relatively low Medicare per-capita spending, it could be more costly to enroll in a private plan.
For those who may not follow health care policy closely, the Kaiser Family Foundation is one of the few independent think tanks that neither side of the political aisle is likely to criticize for being partisan as the organization’s record for impartiality is so well established. This would explain why the Romney campaign has chosen to attempt to distinguish the report from their plan (although there is little to distinguish the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan from the model studied by Kaiser) rather than attack the findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation report.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, October 15, 2012
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