Wednesday, March 08, 2006

News snark: Medicare, federal budget

For some reason, I am buried in email from the past couple of weeks. Being away from the keyboard didn't help. That means that I am bouncing between more or less old news (March 1) and today's pile, and the process is making me a bit cranky. Perhaps that's why my reaction to today's news brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation runs thusly:

  • Senate Budget Committee Budget Proposal Thought To Drop Many of President Bush's Planned Spending and Tax Cuts AP/Houston Chronicle

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said Tuesday that after shepherding through a five-year, $39 billion benefit-cut bill last year, he didn't have the votes for a second round of cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare.

Ya think? Indeed, let us hope so.

  • Medicare Drug Benefit Program To Feature Fewer Plans Next Year, CMS Administrator McClellan Says AP/Long Island Newsday

"I think you'll see significantly fewer choices available next year, but they will be choices dictated by the market, by what consumers want," Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in an interview with The Associated Press. [emphasis added]

Or by plan providers bailing out after taking losses. What consumers want is, yes, a simpler system, but it is also a system that provides all of the medications that they need at a fair price combined with minimal hassle. It speaks volumes that CMS is not going to take a leadership role in making that happen but will instead wait for "the market" to shake things out. Does that mean that the market will provide an effective program that promotes healthy outcomes for consumers (or investors)?

Well, I said I was cranky, so I may as well argue with this little tidbit as well:

McClellan also touched on issues other than the drug benefit during the hourlong interview. He said the administration is looking for ways to bring health savings accounts to the Medicare program. The Bush administration wants to expand the use of the accounts and has proposed tax breaks designed to make them more popular.

"As HSAs have become much more popular in the under-65 market, it's time to make them available in Medicare as well," McClellan said.

Erm, Mark, these were already authorized by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The reason they don't seem to be available right now is because nobody wants them.

Maybe another cup of coffee . . .


Anonymous said...

Carolyn, HSAs for Medicare?? hmmmmm I can just see the elderly and disabled filling out forms at their employer's for pre-tax deductions from their salaries, so they can save a few bucks paying thousands of dollars in co-pays...yeah, right...actually, HSAs are clearly a boon to the wealthy (who did we think the Bushies were helping out here???)to save them a few payments on the Rolls or to make sure that they can spend the summer in the south of France

Carolyn said...

[grin] The logic does seem to be a bit, uh, illogical, but that doesn't seem to interfere with this current administration's willingness to keep trotting out all sorts of proposals to displace Medicare.