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A Word of Caution

December 9, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Jon Walker at FDL says Senate progressives and people like Howard Dean are getting behind the new Medicare buy-in proposal too quickly. Some of the most important details that could determine whether or not it’s effective at all have yet to be seen, he writes:

My greater fear is that this “Medicare buy-in” has already been gutted or will soon be gutted of all value. Kent Conrad is pushing to decouple this Medicare buy-in from Medicare. Conrad wants to make it fake Medicare. He wants people in this fake Medicare to pay much higher reimbursement rates. and be placed in a separate risk pool. The people in fake Medicare might not even be able to use the Medicare provider network. This will make the premiums for Medicare buy-in dramatically higher, and might make the entire fake Medicare program unworkable. Already, the Federal Association of Hospitals is pushing for something like this change to gut the proposal.

It is also possible that the criteria for qualifying for Medicare buy-in will be so stringent that almost no one could take part. It was reported that talks took place about restricting it to only those 55-64 who qualify for the high risk pools. This would mean only people who could not find “affordable” insurance, and have been uninsured for least six months. Only a tiny number of people would qualify under these extremely tight restrictions. Finally, there have also been rumors that the Medicare buy-in program would only be a temporary stopgap measure for only three years. That would make the plan only a small step forward that quickly becomes a step backwards.
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