By Grace-Marie Turner, The Galen Institute
President Biden is previewing his 2024 campaign platform to accuse Republicans of making plans to decimate Medicare, saying in his State of the Union address last week, “If anyone tries to cut Medicare, I will stop them.”
Mr. Biden needs to take a look in the mirror first because he is doing exactly that in real time, building on his long record of making deep cuts to Medicare.
A few examples:
- The Biden administration proposed on Feb. 1 “payment regulations” impacting the popular Medicare Advantage plans where 30 million seniors get their coverage. The proposal affects the higher risk adjustment payments that MA plans get for sicker seniors to cover their more expensive care, as Doug Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum explains. A study released by the Better Medicare Alliance showed the administration’s plans would mean a “$540 decrease in benefits per member per year,” or a “Medicare cut” of $150 billion over 10 years.
- Only six month ago, Mr. Biden spearheaded passage of the Inflation Reduction Act that the CBO calculates decreases Medicare spending by $307 billion to finance a slew of initiatives, including hiring 87,000 new IRS agents. The cuts already are causing drug companies to halt research on promising new treatments. “[T]he bill would reduce drug industry research and development by about $663 billion, resulting in 135 fewer new medicines. This will amount to a loss of 330 million life-years, about 30 times the loss from COVID-19 so far,” according to Prof. Tomas Philipson of the University of Chicago. So much for seniors’ quality of life, as Sally Pipes explains.
- And this is after Sen. Biden voted in 2010 to cut $716 billion from Medicare to finance Obamacare subsidies. The Manhattan Institute’s Chris Pope details the history of how cutting Medicare repeatedly is used as a piggy bank to pay for other spending.
Medicare Advantage definitely needs modernizing but in a thoughtful, data-driven way, as AEI’s Dr. Brian Miller, economist Steve Parente, and former Medicare and Medicaid director Gail Wilensky explain.
Heritage’s Bob Moffit writes that Medicare Advantage should be the basis for overall Medicare modernization after demonstrating that seniors enrolled in MA plans during COVID had “fewer hospitalizations, fewer deaths, and a greater ability to receive treatment for routine medical conditions.”
A new Medicare commission is needed to advise Congress in a bi-partisan way about ways to make the program more efficient and more patient-centric before drastic cuts or massive tax increases are required to stave off Medicare’s bankruptcy.
Grace-Marie Turner runs the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that she founded in 1995 to promote an informed debate over free-market ideas for health reform.