AARP has endorsed the Pelosi health bill, H.R. 3962, but in reviewing the list of ten reasons it has given for its support and comparing those reasons to the bill itself, its advocacy for the legislation seems misplaced. There is a massive disconnect between several of the reasons for support and the bill itself. The inconsistencies include:
- Protecting and strengthening Medicare—the bill cuts Medicare payments to providers including hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies which AARP historically has not viewed as protecting the program. Moreover, the bill does not use the savings for the purpose of extending the Medicare Trust Funds but rather spends the money elsewhere.
- Improving Medicare’s payments to doctors—the proposal simply puts more money into a flawed price control system in which the lowest performing doctor gets paid the same as the highest performing doctor. Moreover, 25 percent of the cost of the increase in doctor payments will get passed onto AARP members. The costs due to the bill’s failure to reform the Medicare payment system will be passed on to seniors.
- Lowering drug costs for seniors and allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices—seniors will have their costs lowered by shifting the future generations of retirees and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) continues to tell Congress and anyone else who will listen, as it has for years, that Medicare will be no better at negotiating for lower drug prices than the private sector, so there will be no savings.
- Taking steps to reduce waste, fraud, abuse, and inefficiency—CBO estimates the fraud prevention measures in the legislation will barely produce any savings. Reducing inefficiency is code for slashing the Medicare Advantage program. The Chief Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates 8 million Medicare beneficiaries will lose Medicare Advantage.
- Limiting how much your insurance company can make you pay out-of-pocket—this is nothing but bait and switch. It does not lower total cost, it simply switches the cost from the out-of-pocket pocket to the premium pocket.
Providing benefits to help seniors and people with disabilities live in their own homes and communities by establishing the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program. Paul Harvey is needed to tell the rest of the story. No one will receive any benefits from CLASS for at least 5 years. No one who is currently eligible for Medicare because of disability will be eligible for benefits under the CLASS Act even after 5 years. And the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has the authority to cut benefits if not enough people choose to join the program. Imagine the outrage of giving the Commissioner of Social Security or the Administrator of CMS the authority to cut benefits on their own.