Perhaps President Biden misread the teleprompter at his State of the Union address when he claimed that Republicans want to “sunset” Medicare. The truth: Many Democrats are on record calling for the end of Medicare.
Last year, more than half of all House Democrats joined Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) in cosponsoring H.R. 1976, the “Medicare for All Act,” which would have “sunset” Medicare. In the Senate, 14 Democrats cosponsored companion legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt).
Of course, these politicians do not advertise the fact that their legislation would abolish Medicare. Instead, they played word games by entitling it “Medicare for All.” That way, people would think the bills aimed expanding Medicare as we know it.
In fact, Title IX, Section 901 (a)(1) of the House bill reads: “with respect to an individual eligible to enroll under this Act… no benefits shall be available under title XVIII of the Social Security Act,” two years after this bill is enacted.
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Title XVIII is, of course, the federal law establishing Medicare.
So, “Medicare for All Act” is in fact “Medicare for None.” The House and Senate “Medicare for All” bills would create an entirely new government-run national health insurance system.
No longer devoted to meeting the unique needs of seniors, the program would try to serve everyone. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would oversee this massive bureaucratic expansion, drafting, implementing and enforcing detailed rules and regulations governing every aspect of health care. Funding for the giant system would be subject, of course, to the annual circus known as the congressional budget process.
To create this new government-run program, “Medicare for All” would not only “sunset” Medicare; it would eliminate virtually all existing private and employer-sponsored health insurance as well as major public health programs such as Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Obamacare health plans, and even the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Only the troubled Veterans Administration health program and Indian Health Service would remain.
Disregard any congressional promises of big budget savings, or a reduction in the health costs of most Americans. Unprecedented levels of high taxation are guaranteed.
In addition to outlawing virtually all other health coverage options, “Medicare for All” would also impose restrictions (meticulously outlined in Section 303 of the House bill) on patients’ ability to secure independent medical care from physicians.
Such legislation gives seniors a lot to lose—especially those who have enrolled in Medicare Advantage, the system of competing private health plans offered as an alternative to traditional Medicare. Today, more than 46 percent of seniors are enrolled in these plans, and rapidly accelerating enrollment will soon make Medicare Advantage the dominant form of Medicare coverage for seniors.
Medicare Advantage enrollment is strong across the country, but it is heaviest in some of the nation’s most liberal (‘blue’) states. According to data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services: 52.3% of all Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut are enrolled in Medicare Advantage; 51.9% in Hawaii; 55.7% in Minnesota; 48.8% New York; 48.7% in California, and 55.3 percent in Rhode Island.
Even in Washington State, home of Rep. Jayapal, the chief House sponsor of the “Medicare for All Act,” 42.8% have chosen Medicare Advantage. Yet, “Medicare for All” supporters want to eliminate these options for citizens in their own states.
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The growing popularity of Medicare Advantage is not hard to explain. These plans can deliver traditional Medicare benefits at less cost than traditional Medicare itself, therefore they can provide seniors with richer benefits or lower premiums. Based on data from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, 43 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees have signed up for health plans that offer traditional Medicare benefits at 80%-90% percent of traditional Medicare spending in their area.
Seniors find Medicare Advantage plans convenient as well as cost-effective. Most pay a single premium that covers a comprehensive set of health benefits outside of what traditional Medicare offers, including prescription drugs and caps on out-of-pocket costs—a crucial protection from the financial devastation of catastrophic illness. And, they do not have to pay extra premiums to purchase supplemental coverage. Moreover, studies show that the quality of care provided through Medicare Advantage plans is generally better than traditional Medicare.
Democrats may believe a cynical “Medi-scare” campaign that frightens vulnerable seniors is “good” politics. But before President Biden spends anymore airtime on national television scaring America’s seniors, he should have a heart-to-heart talk with his liberal Democratic colleagues. It is their legislation that should scare seniors the most.
This piece originally appeared in RealClear Health