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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Medicare Vouchers Are Cash Cows for Insurance Companies

Congressman Paul Ryan surely must receive sizable campaign contributions from insurance companies, because they're the only beneficiaries to gain under a Medicare Voucher system.

My opinion, as a nurse and former administrator of a Medicare Certified home care and hospice agency, is that any plan to privatize Medicare will cause confusion among beneficiaries and open the program to fraudulent insurance providers.

Most Americans, meaning a majority of those who already pay into Medicare, don't know how the program already works. Introducing a new concept, like the Ryan "Medicare Voucher" into the payment mix, is proverbially fixing something that isn't broken.

If people are being scared into worrying about Medicare's solvency, the solution is to adjust the premiums paid and the utilization of services provided. In other words, increase the revenues and manage the costs at the provider end of care. It's just like other health insurance plans, with one difference being the federal government guarantees the providers against non-payment for services.

Medicare is not free. It's not socialized medicine. Medicare recipients pay premiums and co-pays, while coverage is provided without regard for preexisting conditions. But, it's not free.

Who benefits from a Medicare Voucher system are insurance companies. They will be authorized to compete for beneficiaries by selling confusing voucher products. Medicare Vouchers risk attracting unscrupulous insurers, who will undoubtedly figure out how to game the system. Today's Medicare beneficiaries can turn to experts at their Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) or to the Medicare Ombudsman program for benefit answers. But, figuring out the various benefits offered by the growth in voucher insurance plans, tailored to an aging population, will take a totally new layer of experts to advocate as navigators for the beneficiaries.

A Medicare Voucher system will become a private insurance program where premiums will increase private company profit margins. These margins will come at the expense of providers of care and beneficiary coverage.

Why don't Americans know this? Because, big money in premiums keeps insurance companies in business and, to insure this survival, lobbyists provide plenty of contributions to politicians, like Congressman Ryan.

Insurance companies don't want Americans to know how Medicare really works because it's in their best interest to create public confusion, just like they'll do with potential vouchers. In confusion, only the insurers, who will benefit from sales of vouchers, will gain.

A Medicare Voucher system is a cash cow for insurance companies. Congressman Paul Ryan's plan for privatizing Medicare is another example of how Republicans put corporate greed before the best interests of the American people.

American voters cannot allow Republican regressive social policies, like privatizing Medicare, cutting Medicaid and Social Security, to push our nation's progressive safety nets back into the dark ages.

It's time Americans learn how Medicare really works, before changing it to something else, just so private insurance companies can sell more products.


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