Encouraging Medicare news from Senate Republicans

I’m excited that four of the most conservative Senators are offering a serious plan to reform Medicare. They would end fee for service Medicare in 2014, place everyone in the plan currently offered to federal employees, increase the eligibility age and apply means testing. Here’s what I like about it:

  • The plan is mainly focused on facing up to the scale of the crisis in Medicare funding, rather than just scoring political points or pressing an ideology that’s disconnected from reality
  • It kicks in soon, rather than trying to grandfather in everyone anywhere close to retirement like the Ryan plan
  • It moves the eligibility age up 3 months per year, which is fast enough to make a difference, unlike Romney’s month per year idea
  • It puts steep limits on premium subsidies to beneficiaries with $100,000 or more of income, which rightly does away with the notion that anyone who’s paid into Medicare should be able to get a free ride

I doubt it’s feasible to toss everyone into the federal employee program without destabilizing it, but it’s not an unreasonable starting point.

If this plan or something like it comes into being, it will significantly reduce spending growth and enhance intergenerational equity. And actually, the proposal would make Medicare’s approach a lot more like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA/Obamacare) approach than it is today, which ultimately maybe could bring the country together. Ok, I’m not holding my breath on that one.

March 16, 2012

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