Recent proposals to combine the two main parts of Medicare would mean streamlining deductibles and other cost-sharing for beneficiaries. But health care policy experts are cautioning that such a change is complicated and requires analysis. A July 22 briefing explored the impact on beneficiaries.
The idea of redesigning Medicare’s benefits has gained increased attention from both Congress and the president in recent years. Medicare, with Parts A, B and D, has a complicated benefit structure, with various cost-sharing requirements and no limit on out-of-pocket spending. As a result, most beneficiaries in traditional Medicare have some form of supplemental insurance coverage (employer-sponsored retiree health plans, Medigap policies, or Medicaid) to help fill in the gaps. Several proposals would combine deductibles for Parts A and B, establish uniform coinsurance rates across benefits, set a limit on beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket spending, and discourage or restrict supplemental coverage.
What are some of the key elements in proposals to restructure Medicare’s cost sharing? How would these reforms impact Medicare beneficiaries? What would these changes mean for retiree health benefits and the employers that provide them? What effect would these proposals have on Medicare spending?
A distinguished panel of experts addressed these and related questions.
Juliette Cubanski, associate director of the Program on Medicare Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, described Medicare’s current cost-sharing structure and the implications for beneficiaries of a restructured benefit design, along with restrictions on supplemental coverage.
Sheila Burke, co-director of the Health Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center and adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, spoke about recommendations on the redesign of benefits and why a particular set of changes would be favored.
Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, provided a consumer perspective about the impact of different cost-sharing proposals on beneficiaries.
Frank McArdle, independent benefits consultant, discussed implications of various proposals on retiree health benefits and employers.
Ed Howard of the Alliance and Tricia Neuman of Kaiser moderated the discussion
Transcript and Video
Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)