The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health March 16 held a hearing on “Preserving and Strengthening Medicare,” focusing on various entitlement reforms.
Health Subcommittee Chair Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) opened the hearing suggesting that Medicare’s fee-for-service program should be reformed to more closely resemble the Medicare Advantage program. “While we are encouraged by the growth in seniors choosing innovative value-based care through Medicare Advantage, we remain concerned about the viability of the overall Medicare program. Congress must come together to find common sense policies that will ensure the solvency of the program, like combining the deductibles under Part A and Part B of Medicare and empowering seniors and providers with choice,” Chairman Tiberi stated.
Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) disagreed with the suggested reforms stating, “the core proposal that my Republican colleagues have offered – to end Medicare as we know it – will have devastating effects on seniors. It will shift costs onto beneficiaries, create more losers than winners, and lead to a death spiral in traditional Medicare.”
A panel of witnesses included Katherine Baicker, Ph. D. chair and C. Boyden Gray professor of Health Economics, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., senior fellow, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, The Heritage Foundation; and, Stuart Guterman, senior scholar in residence, AcademyHealth.
Dr. Baicker testified that Medicare Advantage enrollees often have “lower unitization rates than fee-for-services enrollees… for services such as emergency department visits, days in the hospital, ambulatory surgery, and other procedures.” However, Guterman argued that “Medicare Advantage plan payments overall still exceed traditional Medicare spending in much of the country, and that relationship varies not only by geographic area but also by type of plan.”
Dr. Moffitt suggested “structural changes” in his testimony, specifically proposing to increase the beneficiary eligibility age from 67 to 68, and combining Medicare Part A and B to improve coordination of care.