Why Privatizing Medicare is a Bad Deal & Strengthening It is the Way to Go

Why Privatizing Medicare is a Bad Deal & Strengthening It is the Way to Go

We full-heartedly agree with the Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA) and other advocates across the country on strengthening traditional Medicare versus other proposals to privatize and weaken the program. Privatizing Medicare is a very bad deal for our country’s 55 million older & disabled people. Not only have we repeatedly seen that private Medicare Advantage plans cost more than traditional fee-for-service Medicare, they are also more cumbersome to navigate in terms of beneficiaries receiving the quality care and treatment to which they’re entitled.

Below is an article by Judith Stein, Executive Director at CMA outlining why privatizing Medicare is a bad idea and why strengthening it is the way to go.

Plenty of Sensible Changes to Help and Preserve Medicare

by Judith Stein, Executive Director at Center for Medicare Advocacy

Under Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan, individuals would be given a set amount to help pay premiums for insurance on the open market. This idea is not new, not necessary and not best for Medicare beneficiaries or taxpayers – who would pay more and get less under the Ryan plan. It would “save” Medicare in name only.

Speaker Ryan is intent on privatizing Medicare; that’s the goal. Similar to earlier voucher plans, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost Medicare beneficiaries more than traditional Medicare. This belief that privatization will drive down costs is based on faith, not fact.

Private plans have not saved Medicare money, and often cost more than traditional Medicare.

Further, traditional Medicare has been an adaptable, cost-effective model leading to coverage and payment innovations, access to care and enhanced economic security.

But Medicare has been complicated and made more expensive by adding layers of private options.

And, as Medicare becomes more fragmented and traditional Medicare loses enrollment, it also loses its bargaining power over health care costs and its ability to create positive change in the broader health arena.

Untethered from the overspending and complexities that have been foisted on Medicare by private plans and non-negotiable drug prices, it could once again be a model for affordable health insurance. These changes would help strengthen traditional Medicare for all beneficiaries:

  • Create complete parity between traditional Medicare and private Medicare Advantage, paying no more to Medicare Advantage plans per enrollee than is paid per traditional Medicare beneficiary.
  • Add all current benefits only available to Medicare Advantage enrollees to traditional Medicare, including a limit on out-of-pocket spending, help with oral health and vision costs, and waiver of the 3-day prior hospital stay for nursing home coverage.
  • Repeal the prohibition on negotiating Medicare prescription drug prices and ensure Medicare pays only the best possible price.
  • Add a prescription drug benefit to Part B of traditional Medicare.
  • Make Medigap plans accessible to people who want to return to traditional Medicare from Medicare Advantage and insure they are available to all Medicare beneficiaries, including those who qualify due to disability.

The best bet for beneficiaries and taxpayers is to strengthen traditional Medicare – and stop spending unnecessarily for private insurance and prescription drugs.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.