|Targeted News Service|
Astonishingly though, the
By almost any measure, it is a big success. Nine out of ten seniors are satisfied with their plan. In nine years, the basic premium has only risen 22 cents. In some of the intervening years, the premium actually went down. The cost of the program to the government is 45 percent lower than the
So, why is the program coming in so far under budget? The CBO didn't take into account just how well competition and choice would work to keep costs low. The program was designed to offer seniors a variety of plans to choose from. These plans compete for seniors' business by keeping costs low and offering attractive services.
Without any direction from
The new rules could reduce the number of plans available to seniors to as few as two per region. Nationally 14 million seniors could lose their current plan. In
The rules modify the protected classes of drugs currently included in the program. This could mean certain drugs would be unavailable to all seniors in all plans. AIDS patients and those dealing with mental illness could have fewer options for treatment.
I recently held a hearing at the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee to ask the government official in charge of the rules rewrite why they are trying to mess with success. I found many of his answers to be evasive and the legal justification for the changes highly suspect.
The witness cited the number of complaints
The government witness also cited increased costs in the future as a reason for the changes. But he also admitted that they had failed to analyze all aspects of the new rules. In fact, a private study by the actuarial firm Milliman estimated the government would spend up to
The legal basis for the new rules is on shaky ground. Just a few years ago, a report from the Health and Human Services Inspector General explicitly said that the government could not do many of the things this rule would empower it to do today. When I confronted the government witness with this report, he indicated that he had not read it or considered it.