By Representative Alan Nunnelee (MS-1)
Protecting Medicare for current beneficiaries and saving it for future generations is one of my most important responsibilities as a Member of Congress. It is no secret that demographic and economic factors will not allow us to continue the program unaltered. There are 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, and when these programs were first enacted there were more than 40 workers for every 1 retiree. Today, that number is below 3 workers per retiree and headed towards 2 to 1. Health care costs continue to rise much faster than inflation. In order to ensure the solvency of a program that senior citizens have come to rely on, changes must be made. The days of doing nothing, burying our heads in the sand, and pretending the status quo is sustainable are over.
The House of Representatives has outlined specific reforms that maintain the current Medicare program for those aged 55 and older with no disruption and saves Medicare for future seniors by offering those beneficiaries a premium support program. Specifically for younger workers, when they reach eligibility, Medicare will provide a payment and a list of guaranteed coverage options – including a traditional fee-for-service option from which recipients can choose a plan that best suits their needs. These future Medicare beneficiaries will be able to choose a plan the same way members of Congress do. Medicare will also provide additional assistance for lower-income beneficiaries and those with greater health care needs. Our plan also stops the raid on Medicare trust fund that was going to pay for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, allowing any current Medicare savings to go directly to saving Medicare and not creating open-ended health entitlements.
The alternative to this approach is control by a board of unelected bureaucrats known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This board will consist of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats empowered to make decisions about what kind of care people on Medicare can receive. I am greatly concerned that this board is being given way too much authority to determine what benefits are covered and how much physicians are paid. This commission’s sole intention will be to determine whether Medicare is spending more than is budgeted and, if so, to offer “fixes” to cut back on Medicare spending that would then be fast-tracked with very little opportunity for Congressional input. President Obama's former Budget Director Peter Orszag called IPAB "the single biggest yielding of power to an independent entity since the creation of the federal reserve." I believe the best way to control costs in Medicare is to increase choice and competition, not cede control of health care decisions to a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.