By U.S. Senator Tim Kaine
Tim Kaine is a United States Senator from Virginia. In the Senate he is a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. He is one of 30 people in American history to have served as a Mayor, Governor, and United States Senator.
It’s clear we need to take action to protect Medicare for future generations and safeguard it against those who want to turn it into a coupon-style voucher system. For over half a century, Medicare has guaranteed older Americans’ access to health care, and most seniors don’t want to see something so essential endangered or gutted. But here’s some good news: There are steps we can take to put Medicare on sure financial footing and build upon it to improve insurance coverage and affordability for older Americans not yet on Medicare.
Forty-one million Americans participate in Part D. Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices on their behalf just as the VA and private insurers do. Doing so would have the potential to lower drug costs for Part D participants and save Medicare money. For these reasons, I’ve introduced multiple bills to end Medicare’s ban on price negotiation, and have urged President Trump not to renege on his campaign pledges supporting this.
One of my bills would also increase insurance options for older Americans who are not yet age 65. While the Affordable Care Act has greatly expanded insurance coverage, and limited insurers’ ability to charge older Americans higher premiums, we can do a lot more to increase options and affordability. My Medicare-X Choice Act would expand on the Medicare framework to create a new public insurance plan for people of all ages.
The 5 or so million Americans aged 50 to 64 who currently buy insurance on the individual and small business exchanges could compare a Medicare-X plan to those offered by private insurance plansm and choose which works best for them. Guaranteeing Medicare-X in every ZIP code would ensure there’s always an option for Americans not yet on Medicare. And, because participants’ premiums would cover the full cost of the plan, it wouldn’t raise taxes, add to the deficit, or take resources from the Medicare trust fund. Medicare-X would allow price negotiation under Part D, but would not touch the benefits offered through traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage.
The high cost of health care is one of the biggest threats to Medicare and older Americans’ health in general. I stand ready to take action on drug price negotiation and Medicare-X and to debate whatever ideas Democrats, Republicans, and independents have to bring down the cost of health care today and protect Medicare’s viability for generations to come.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.