Reform could buy ailing Medicare some time

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Changing the rules surrounding Medicare Advantage plan pay rates could stave off Medicare insolvency by 18 months, an actuary with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told a House subcommittee Tuesday. 

Recent reports have suggested that Medicare will go broke in early 2019, but paying MA plans at the same rate as traditional Medicare would reduce overall Medicare spending. That would extend the program by a year and a half, said Richard Foster, actuary for CMS. He testified before the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. 

Foster also told the subcommittee that the 10-year cost projection for the Medicare prescription drug benefit is 37% less than analysts had originally anticipated. That is due mostly to lower drug spending estimates, lower-than-expected enrollment and increased competition among drug plans. Members of the subcommittee said they would like to see these competition-based reforms applied to other aspects of the Medicare program to decrease spending.