Yes, you read that headline right. I realize that the gut reaction by any Democrats to Republican Senators making a cut in Medicare would be opposition, until they understand the specifics. If you doubt me on this, note that President Bush is threatening to veto the bill containing the spending cuts. That’s George Bush, who has yet to veto anything. If he is threatening to veto a bill containing a cut, you can be sure that money is really a case of corporate welfare for his supporters and not money which benefits Medicare patients.
The cuts proposed by the Republican Senators which I support are the subsidies to the Medicare Advantage program–not the traditional Medicare program which, if anything, should receive more funds.
Medicare Advantage is a plan to privatize Medicare by providing extra money to private insurance companies to handle Medicare patients. Despite placing more restrictions on patients and physicians, it costs more money to treat patients in a Medicare HMO than in the traditional Medicare program. One provision Bush added to the Medicare prescription drug program was to pay private companies extra money so that they can make money doing what the government does better and more efficiently.
Historically Medicare HMO’s have been a disaster. Typically companies would find that they could not make enough money providing health care to the Medicare population, and would drop the program, leaving beneficiaries abruptly without coverage. Even if all things were equal and they didn’t require subsidies to remain in business, it is a poor idea. Ultimately it is far more efficient to have all seniors in the traditional Medicare program where there is a single set of regulations and a single method of claims submission.
Due the increasing deficit, and the need to pay for Iraq, Katrina rebuilding, and their next tax cut to the ultra-wealthy, some Republican Senators have decided that there is no point in providing the insurance industry this subsidy. The are right, except that rather than just cutting subsidies to companies participating in Medicare Advantage, the program should be abolished.