As Medicare’s Open Enrollment period draws to a close this week, the experience for seniors in the program has never been better. The Trump administration has made historic strides in strengthening and protecting Medicare.
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Our approach – to restore Washington, D.C. to its proper role as a facilitator of patient-centered markets, rather than a hindrance to them – has had amazing results.
We have torn down needless government barriers to innovation and ingenuity, and as the president’s recent Medicare executive order indicates, we are just getting started.
The result of our efforts has been an infusion of new Medicare options, and – most importantly – lower costs for seniors accompanied by better benefits.
Nevertheless, it remains true that Medicare faces solvency issues within the next decade. Foolish demands for “Medicare-for-all” threaten the fiscal sustainability of the program, while squandering the many advances this administration has made.
Take Medicare Advantage. Policies adopted under the Trump administration have cleared the runway for nearly 1,200 new Medicare Advantage plan options since 2018, bringing costs down for seniors through increased competition.
Medicare Advantage premiums will decline to an average of $23, a 14 percent decrease from last year. For some plans, the decrease is as high as 80 percent. Premiums have not been this low since 2007.
Medicare Part D has experienced the same price plunge as well, with prescription drug plan premiums decreasing by over 13 percent since 2017. Combined with the lower Medicare Advantage premiums, beneficiaries are saving over $2.65 billion since 2017.
What’s more, this reduced price tag has actually accompanied an expansion in benefits that will keep seniors healthy and independent, such as home modifications like wheelchair ramps. Those with chronic conditions increasingly have access to plans that can cover home meal delivery, pest control and transportation to the grocery store.
At the same time, the drive to tear down burdensome government barriers has also expanded access to innovative new treatments that can cure diseases.
Innovation has even made accessing the care seniors need more convenient for them. New telehealth benefits that allow seniors to text or video chat with their doctor – rather than having to travel – are a boon for seniors in rural areas, and new methods of receiving vital drugs at home are making life easier for seniors and their caregivers.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: new tools with which to search and compare Medicare health and prescription drug plans, innovative methods to find affordable prescription drugs, improved access to Medicare data, and much more are revolutionizing this vital program for America’s seniors.
The president’s recent executive order on Medicare is a powerful illustration of the bold future he sees for the program. Its provisions will result in lower costs, higher quality, and a flurry of innovation – providing sorely needed security for America’s seniors.
As this administration continues to build on our existing Medicare successes, our efforts will necessarily have a profound ripple effect on the health care system as a whole.
The animating principle behind our successful efforts is this: Medicare should be strengthened for seniors – the people to whom these benefits were promised in the first place.
Advocates of “Medicare-for-all” propose a different principle, one that ultimately jeopardizes seniors’ access to high-quality health care. As “Medicare-for-all” gathers momentum in certain circles, America faces a fork in the road: do we continue to strengthen this fundamental benefit for many of our most vulnerable fellow citizens – seniors – or do we shunt them aside in favor of pipe dreams like “Medicare-for-All” that will ruin the program for everyone? The Trump administration firmly stands for the first option.
The Trump administration has strengthened Medicare, but serious problems persist. It is both irresponsible and callous to endanger the health of our nation’s elderly by reneging on our promise to them.
We should build on the Trump administration’s Medicare successes – not torch them altogether.
Seema Verma is the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.