After last night’s gubernatorial primary elections, no one can claim “those politicians are all the same.”
Gillum v DeSantis in Florida, Ducey v Garcia in Arizona, Abrams v Kent in Georgia, Evers v Walker in Wisconsin…the contrast between candidates in these and other states could not be more stark.
Many of the Democratic candidates for Governor – and some Congressional candidates as well – are pushing Medicare for All as a solution to the health care mess, while their Republican opponents are blasting the idea.
Before we dig into the details to understand the pros, cons, and challenges of “single payer”, let’s understand what Medicare is – and isn’t…
- Medicare is a federal program, funded (mostly) by payroll taxes and member “premiums”. Unlike Medicaid, there is no variation between states, nor do states contribute financially.
- Medicare is NOT simple – it is not a straight-forward healthplan, but rather several different plans covering hospital care (Medicare Part A), physician/provider care (Medicare Part B), and drugs (Medicare Part D).
- Medicare Part C is the term for “Medicare Advantage” programs typically managed by commercial insurers. These plans include both A and B, and sometimes D coverage.
- If you were setting out to design the most confusing health coverage possible, you could use A, B, and D as a great template. Medicare’s A, B, and D coverages include complicated deductibles, coverage limits (for stuff like rehab hospitals and nursing home care), qualifying periods, copays etc. It’s kind of like a camel, which is a horse designed by committee.
- Medicare Advantage (MA) programs are a lot less complicated and sometimes have additional benefits, but often have restrictions on which providers members can see.
- “Old style” medicare (not Medicare Advantage) pays providers on a fee for service basis, with reimbursement rates set by CMMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).
So, Medicare is a federal program mostly for folks over 65 that covers most health care needs. Members can often choose between the “old style” Medicare, which allows access to pretty much any provider but has lots of cost-sharing provisions, and MA plans that restrict provider choice but have fewer complexities.
What’s often missing from the candidates’ calls for “Medicare for All” is any detail on:
- what exactly they mean – Medicare Advantage? old style Medicare? Would patients be able to choose?
- how would this be paid for?
- would employers still be able to/required to provide health insurance?
We will delve into these issues tomorrow.