An Uncertain Future for Medicare ~ Interview with Bonnie Burns

An Uncertain Future for Medicare ~ Interview with Bonnie Burns

A graduate journalism student, Annalisa Pardo, from New York’s NCC News at Syracuse University recently interviewed our Training and Policy Specialist, Bonnie Burns, on the uncertain future of Medicare. Below are Annalisa’s questions and Bonnie’s responses.


1. What are the pros of privatizing Medicare?

I see no benefit to privatizing Medicare and oppose it.

2. What are the cons of privatizing Medicare?

Insurance works best when the insured pool is the largest number of people facing the same risk. This spreads the cost across the largest number of people and reduces each individual’s cost in the pool.

3. If the Affordable Care Act is to be repealed, will this have an effect on Medicare? If so, how?

Two of the biggest effects will be to the Medicare Part D prescription drug “donut hole” (coverage gap), and to hospitals. Hospitals operate on thin margins. They traded cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in return for reducing the amount of their uncompensated hospital and ER care because more people would have covered health benefits.  The safety net and rural hospitals in particular will be unable to survive if people lose their health benefits and are unable to pay for their own care.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) gradually reduces the Medicare Part D donut hole and will be eliminated by 2020.  Yet, if the ACA is repealed, the donut hole will reappear and beneficiaries will pay a much higher percentage of their prescription drug costs. This increase falls on top of the rising drugs costs of medications that sick and older people use more frequently.

4. Who will privatizing medicare affect the most (upcoming generations, etc.)?

The old and sick first, then low income families, and people who care for sick or older people.  


5.What should they be doing now to possibly prepare for this change?

I doubt there is anything an individual can do to prepare for this repeal of health care benefits.


6.  Would you say the general public is properly informed/educated on medicare and what works for them?

The general population is woefully ignorant about Medicare, and fails to understand the connection between the ACA and Medicare. These 2 programs are intertwined in ways that have reduced the cost of care for Medicare beneficiaries, and have dramatically increased ways to better coordinate care for seniors and the care they need for chronic health care conditions. Seniors overwhelmingly believe that Medicare is something they paid for like Social Security. While everyone working does pay a Medicare tax, and seniors pay premiums for their Medicare Part B and Part D benefits, those payments are only part of the overall cost of the Medicare program. Taxpayers pick up the remaining costs.  Seniors and taxpayers alike fail to understand the concept or the value of a social insurance program like Medicare that equalizes costs for everyone, and protects the sickest and the oldest from individually astronomical costs.

Karen Fletcher
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.

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