August 14, 2017

Former NYS Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey pens op ed about Medicare for All – “Dems’ New Plan is Deadly for Seniors”

Ms. McCaughey’s op ed in the New York Post this week began with that provocative title, intended to use the same shock/fear factor that was used by Sarah Palin’s “death panel” comment during the debate on the Affordable Care Act. In the article she mentions health care rationing and that the ACA “robbed” over $700 billion from Medicare over a decade to fund entitlements for younger people and paid for Medicaid expansion. See the whole op ed by clicking here.

Unfortunately, what Ms. McCaughey is selling is just untrue. ARA Legislative Director Eva Dominguez’s response to the op ed is as follows:

With regard to Britain’s policy on cataracts and hip and knee replacement, they are not limiting it, but there is a waiting list. The problem isn’t because they have universal health care, but because of budget issues. There is a Representative who is pushing to try to get more funding. Dr. Sarah Wallaston a conservative politician and chair of the Health Select Committee in parliament is seeking to get more funding.

If you have a Medicare for all system, everyone will be enrolled in Medicare, which means everyone will have a vested interest in protecting the programs from cuts. Politicians, and individuals like Ms. McCaughey, will not be able to do what they do today and that is pit young against old. And I think that is exactly what they are afraid of.

In response to the comment that there will be a shortage of doctors participating in Medicare, the truth is that if Medicare is the only game in town, all the doctors will have to choice but to participate in it.

In response to the comments that doctors did not like Secretary Clinton’s proposal to have those 50 and over buy-in to Medicare, the truth is that as much as doctors complain about Medicare payment rates, most doctors do participate in Medicare and particularly in areas where there are a lot of seniors. It is true that doctor’s and hospital shift the cost to private insurers right now, but it is also true that Medicare does a much better job keeping costs down. If Medicare were able to negotiate drug prices, drug costs would go down and that would also save Medicare money.

In response to the argument that Obamacare cut funding to Medicare and used it to fund the exchanges for young people, the truth is that Obamacare instituted changes to the Medicare program to make it more efficient and reduce costs. These changes include incentives that encourage doctors and hospitals to coordinate care for individuals, pilot programs that bundle payments to hospitals and rehab facilities and a number of other improvements. These new measures are designed to reward quality rather than quantity and improve patient care. The savings went back into the Medicare program, including $20 billion to close the doughnut hole, funding to train primary care providers and nurses and bonus payments to providers (i.e., doctors, hospitals, Medicare Advantage plans) that provide good quality care. The rest of the funding went back to the program and helped extend the solvency of the trust fund by 12 years.

What seniors need to be concerned about is the proposal in the House Republican budget that would raise the Medicare age of eligibility to 67, do more means testing to the program and end its guaranteed benefits by replacing it with vouchers. Under vouchers, seniors would essentially receive a limited stipend similar to a coupon to get their health care through Medicare or the private marketplace. The stipend would not sufficient and would not keep up with medical inflation. Every year seniors would have to pay more out of pocket to get the care they need. Even more alarming is that private insurers would siphon off the healthier beneficiaries, leaving sicker people in the Medicare pool. This would raise costs for those under Medicare prompting more beneficiaries to desert traditional Medicare, leaving the absolutely sickest individuals in Medicare. The costs under traditional Medicare could get so exorbitant that it would become unsustainable.

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