National Journal - In his convention speech in Charlotte, President Obama vowed to block the Republican Medicare reform plan because “no American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.”
But back in Washington, his Health and Human Services Department is launching a pilot program that would shift up to 2 million of the poorest and most-vulnerable seniors out of the federal Medicare program and into private health insurance plans overseen by the states.
The administration has accepted applications from 18 states to participate in the program, which would give states money to purchase managed-care plans for people who are either disabled or poor enough to qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.
To get approval, states must guarantee that both Medicare and Medicaid would save money. They must also agree to accept a fixed payment to cover all care for each patient. While rules say the private plans must cover all standard Medicare benefits, they also waive many Medicare rules and leave insurer selection to the states.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a group of experts who advise Congress on Medicare policy, has
“The problem with this population is that all the strategies that the health plans have been used to using historically are going to backfire,” said Chris Duff, executive director of the Disability Practice Institute, an umbrella organization for small programs that provide coordinated care to dual-eligibles. He warned that slashing provider rates, limiting visits, and using other conventional cost-control measures could lead to expensive hospitalizations for frail dual-eligible patients.