Many 'sensible changes' exist to preserve Medicare, expert says

Medicare could benefit from “sensible changes” to help make it less complicated and expensive, a program expert said Tuesday.

Judith Stein, executive director for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times that contrary to Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) beliefs, privatization has not helped bring down Medicare costs. Rather, the addition of private options has driven up costs and made the program overcomplicated, Stein said.

“Untethered from the overspending and complexities that have been foisted on Medicare by private plans and non-negotiable drug prices, it could once again be a model for affordable health insurance,” she wrote.

Stein's proposed changes that would bolster the program for traditional Medicare beneficiaries include:

  • Creating parity between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare, where Medicare Advantage is paid no more per enrollee than what is paid per traditional beneficiary

  • Adding all benefits currently only available to Medicare Advantage enrollees to traditional Medicare, such as a waiver of the three-day stay for skilled nursing coverage

  • Allow for negotiation of Medicare prescription drug prices

  • Make Medigap plans open to people who wish to switch from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage

“The best bet for beneficiaries and taxpayers is to strengthen traditional Medicare — and stop spending unnecessarily for private insurance and prescription drugs,” Stein wrote.