There are two very different plans that have been proposed to reform Medicare. One plan proposes to raise premiums to about $ 6,000 per year. While long term financial stability for Medicare might be realized, it would also mean that senior citizens who rely on social security and Medicare today would immediately become poverty stricken. The other plan seeks to preserve Medicare by doing nothing. This head-in-the-ground approach would most likely assure the demise of a very successful health care program for future senior citizens.
It is high to begin a public conversation on what a fair and responsible reform plan for Medicare might look like. Here are some ideas that can begin that conversation:
1. Eliminate Medicare subsidies to insurance companies. These subsidies amounting to $ 1,000 per subscriber are being phased out under a mandate from the Affordable Care Act. No reductions in health care services required under Medicare will occur.
2. Reduce the age of Medicare eligibility to 55 years old. While a lowering of the eligible age may seem counter intuitive, the cost per subscriber could be significantly reduced by including a younger and healthier adult group.
3. Adopt a schedule of affordable co-payments and deductibles. There are many current and future Medicare recipients who could afford Medicare co-payments and increased health care deductibles. However, there are also many low income seniors for whom added medical costs would be a considerable financial burden. Affordability can be determined using income guidelines.
4. Negotiate the cost of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies. This proposal is a no-brainer. The drug companies have put a political lock on such actions right now. There needs to be a new mind set in Congress: what’s best for Americans, not what’s needed to get re-elected.
5. Identify and implement strategies to control costs and encourage efficiencies in medical practice for Medicare recipients. The development of new ideas about cost control and medical practices under Medicare have been mandated under the Affordable Care Act.
6. Determine the feasibility of adopting lower cost concierge-style medical practices to reduce Medicare costs. There are some forward thinking medical practitioners who are demonstrating that more affordable medical costs can be achieved by eliminating the virtual stranglehold that insurance companies currently have on the cost of medical care in America. Some innovative thinking could eliminate billions of dollars in administrative overhead costs and profit commanded by the insurance industry.
These are some ideas for reforming Medicare that should be considered and debated. More ideas are needed. We must also begin a conversation with members of Congress and the Senate. One thing is for sure: health care costs for Medicare must be reduced. It’s time to start talking.
John F. Zipeto
14 Canterbury St.