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Republicans planning further privatization of Medicare

GOP closing in on ObamaCare alternative, lawmakers say

By Peter Sullivan and Sarah Ferris
The Hill, May 12, 2016

House Republicans huddled behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss their plan to replace ObamaCare, which they said is on track to be released in June.

The proposal will include a version of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) long-standing proposal to make Medicare more market-based, giving seniors a kind of voucher to use for private insurance, according to two Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting.

"It's turning out to be more encompassing than what we expected," Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said after the meeting. "Now we're actually adding in Medicare and the premium support, the things that Paul Ryan's been talking about for years."

Ryan was an “active participant” during Thursday’s meeting, said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.).

“We want to help provide the policy issues, where if [Trump’s] elected, we can go forward,” Ryan said, according to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

http://www.thehill.com/policy/healthcare/279755-gop-closes-in-on-obamacare-alternative

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House GOP Mulling Medicare Age Changes and Taxation on Premiums

By Mary Ellen McIntire and Caitlin Owens
Morning Consult, May 12, 2016

The details of House Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare are beginning to emerge. Members seemed pleased with what they heard after a closed-door caucus meeting Thursday afternoon at which the leaders of the effort presented their ideas.

Many of the ideas presented at the meeting are consistent with conservative proposals previously floated by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Earlier on Thursday, Ryan met with Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Ryan loosely tied the afternoon policy meeting to his earlier meeting with Trump, according to Upton.

Medicare changes discussed at the meeting included enhancing Medicare Advantage, the private alternative to traditional fee-for-service Medicare, and raising the Medicare eligibility age.

https://morningconsult.com/2016/05/house-gop-mulling-medicare-age-changes-taxation-premiums/

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Blog: Trump adviser now says Medicare and Medicaid changes are on the table

By Harris Meyer
Modern Healthcare, May 12, 2016

On Wednesday, Sam Clovis, Trump's chief policy adviser, signaled to a Washington group that strongly favors a major overhaul of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that Trump is open to their agenda. “After the (Trump) administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Clovis said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20160512/blog/160519947

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Comment:

By Don McCanne, M.D.

For those of you who were dubious about the claim in yesterday’s Quote of the Day comment that Medicare is well on its way toward privatization, today’s report should provide additional fodder for your consideration.

The House Republicans will soon release a white paper describing the policies they recommend for replacing the Affordable Care Act. A few details have been released following their closed-door caucus meeting yesterday - a meeting attended by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan’s presence is important because, when he agreed to accept the Speakership, it was on the condition that he would have a leading role in shaping the conservative Republican agenda.

We now know that they do intend to introduce premium support to the Medicare program - a voucher-like system that would enable Medicare beneficiaries to purchase private health insurance plans perhaps comparable to the current Medicare Advantage plans.

Furthermore, in spite of exposure of the nefarious plot to overpay the private Medicare Advantage plans in order to entice beneficiaries into the private plans, the Republicans intend to further enhance the Medicare Advantage plans to attract even more Medicare beneficiaries - making the private plans the preferred choice because of the extra benefits they can offer. Once a critical mass is enrolled in the private plans, they can start to disassemble the then deficient, neglected, antiquated traditional Medicare program.

The fact that they intend to increase the age for Medicare eligibility indicates that they are not really interested in the welfare of the Medicare population. The purpose of premium support is to reduce the government contribution so that more of the costs are shifted to the beneficiaries through higher premiums, through greater deductibles and other cost sharing, and through reduced benefits and reduced access through narrower provider networks.

Can they actually accomplish this? Although far more people vote for Democrats than Republicans in the House elections, the Congressional district borders are controlled predominantly by Republican state governments. This gerrymandering of the districts will ensure that Republicans will maintain control of the House even with a minority of votes. Ryan’s agenda will prevail in the House deliberations.

If Republicans maintain control of the Senate and if a Republican is elected as President, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell surely will be tempted to use the “nuclear option” - changing the rules so that the Democratic minority would be less able to block legislation, such as the Medicare privatization proposals.

Donald Trump’s popularity in the Republican primaries and caucuses was certainly not predicted. It is very possible that the voters may choose him for President, perceiving him as an outsider who will get things done as opposed to an establishment insider whose popularity has been declining.

Although Trump has said that he would protect Medicare, Sam Clovis, his chief policy advisor, said yesterday, “we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.” Also Trump is holding meetings with Paul Ryan wherein Ryan’s clear intent is to unify the party by convincing Trump to support Ryan’s agenda. After his meeting with Trump yesterday, Ryan promoted premium support to his caucus.

If will be difficult to campaign for Medicare for All if Medicare becomes a despised program in which private insurers take away our health care choices and force us into debt. The threat is very real.

Yesterday’s Quote of the Day on overpayments to Medicare Advantage

http://www.pnhp.org/news/2016/may/cms-not-fulfilling-obligation-to-recover-medicare-advantage-overpayments

PNHP is a single issue organization, promoting education and research for the single payer model of health care reform. We do not support nor oppose any political parties or candidates. (Today’s message should be perceived as a plea to all politicians, not just Republicans, to protect and support Medicare.)