Today, U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) unveiled the Seniors' Choice Act, a legislative proposal to help America's seniors by building a stronger, more sustainable Medicare program through immediate and longer-term reforms, many rooted in long-standing, bipartisan ideas. Non-partisan experts have warned the current Medicare program is facing insolvency due to unsustainable growth, and the Seniors' Choice Act would fix its shortcomings so that it remains a viable option for seniors participating in the program now and for future enrollees.
"We made a promise to our seniors that Medicare will be there when they need it most, but the program as it currently stands is broken. We have a moral obligation to our parents, children, and all Americans to take steps now to save Medicare. The Medicare program in its current form is unsustainable, and we have an obligation and opportunity to improve it for our nation's seniors within the next few years," Senator Burr said.
"Unfortunately, President Obama's budget proposal promoted more of the same -- provider cuts that will only jeopardize seniors' access to care, rather than proposing reforms that will address the serious challenges facing the program for seniors today and in the future. We can reduce Medicare spending by putting patients first and implementing common-sense reforms that promote choice and competition, giving seniors the same kinds of choices that Members of Congress enjoy. Our patient-focused proposal is a better way to put Medicare on a sustainable path and fulfill our promise to seniors today and in the future, and it will serve as a blueprint for legislative reform," Senator Burr said.
"Right now, the American people have little faith in Congress' ability to do anything to fix the problems facing our nation, and with good reason. But let's prove them wrong. The Medicare program is broken and we have an obligation and an opportunity to fix it," Dr. Coburn said.
"Seniors and future retirees across the country are waking up to the reality of Medicare's brokenness. With insolvency predicted to hit as soon as 2016, and with budget experts warning that Medicare represents the nation's single largest fiscal challenge, Americans are right to be concerned. What we are proposing is the catalyst needed to strengthen and save Medicare for our nation's seniors and ensure the program will be there for future retirees," said Coburn.
The Seniors' Choice Act blends many of the short term Medicare reforms proposed by Senators Coburn and Lieberman (I-CT) with the longer-term reforms that build on ideas put forward by Alice Rivlin, former director of the independent Congressional Budget Office, and former Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), as well as the bipartisan Medicare Commission led by former Senator John Breaux (D-LA) and former Congressman Bill Thomas (R-CA). By incorporating thoughtful elements from these proposals into its framework, the Seniors' Choice Act can help move the debate forward about how to craft Medicare reform to ensure the program remains strong for seniors today and in the future.
Beginning in 2014, the Seniors' Choice Act would give patients in traditional Medicare a new benefit. For the first time, seniors would have the peace of mind that they are protected against high out-of-pocket medical costs and will have targeted and coordinated care when they need it. This policy proposal builds on recommendations of President Obama's bipartisan Fiscal Commission and the bipartisan Lieberman-Coburn Medicare Reform proposal.
The Seniors' Choice Act outlines other commonsense reforms that may also be implemented as soon as 2014. These include providing seniors with a unified deductible and predictable cost-sharing, gradually increasing the eligibility age and modestly increasing premiums.
Immediate Reforms: Better Benefits
The Seniors' Choice Act gives seniors new, strengthened benefits:
* Seniors in traditional Medicare will have peace of mind that they are protected from unexpected, high medical costs by limiting their maximum out-of-pocket medical expenses under Medicare Parts A and B.
* Seniors in traditional Medicare who would otherwise be at risk because of their health care needs will be able to benefit from targeted care coordination when they need it.
* Many seniors will save money. Modernizing Medigap and rationalizing cost-sharing will offer many seniors the chance to save money each month.
The longer-term framework of the Seniors' Choice Act, which would bring competition and choice to Medicare, would be adopted in 2016. Premium support would strengthen Medicare by giving seniors the right to choose the Medicare plan that best meets their needs. Traditional Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) and private plans would be forced to compete head-to-head. Under the Seniors' Choice Act, seniors will have similar types of choices as Members of Congress currently enjoy. They may choose to either keep their traditional FFS, or they may switch to a more affordable, better coordinated plan that meets their health care needs.
Longer-Term Reforms: Better Choices
* Premium support is a patient-centered approach to strengthening Medicare. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to Medicare, seniors will have the choice of a better benefit that meets their individual health care needs.
* Premium support puts patients and doctors back in charge of their health care decisions, instead of the President's unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats--the Independent Payment Advisory Board--with the power to cut Medicare payments to doctors, which will threaten patients' access to care.
* Medicare will compete for patients and be forced to give seniors and taxpayers the best deal for their dollar.
* Seniors have benefited from choice and competition in Medicare Part D, which has enabled seniors to have an affordable prescription drug benefit. Seniors should benefit from the same kinds of choices and competition for their entire Medicare benefit.
* Premium support will strengthen Medicare for seniors by giving them the ability to choose the Medicare plan that will best work for them, just like they do with their Medicare prescription drug coverage today.