Last week AARP representatives from all 50 states visited Capitol Hill to express opposition to the President’s proposed “Chained CPI” Social Security benefit cuts and to support responsible solutions to strengthen Medicare. The AARP representatives urged Senators, Members of Congress and their staff, to back specific proposals that would strengthen Medicare for future generations.
According to a recent piece on Huffington Post by A. Barry Rand, AARP CEO,
As part of our You’ve Earned a Say conversation, more than 6.5 million AARP members and people 50-plus shared their views on the future of Medicare and Social Security.
Here’s what you have told us: People depend on Medicare and Social Security for health and financial security. They want these programs to remain strong for themselves and especially for their kids and grandkids. They’ve raised their voices, but Washington isn’t listening.
The “You’ve Earned a Say conversation” mention by Rand is an AARP initiative to get Washington to stop trying to reform Medicare and start making sensible changes that will make a real difference. Among these recommendations, three stand out as not only sensible, but critical:
- Reduce prescription drug costs.
- Improve care coordination.
- Crack down on waste and inefficiency.
Senior healthcare costs have spiraled out of control in recent years largely due to prescription drug costs. Rand suggests that Washington clamp down on drug companies’ high prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and by improving access to lower-cost biologic drugs needed to treat multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and other challenging health conditions.
Rand also stresses the need to improve patient health and reduce medical errors. The Department of Health and Human Services tracks the critical metrics that can be used to help prevent dangerous, avoidable and expensive hospital readmissions, while saving taxpayer dollars.
Finally, Mr. Rand reports that, due to inefficient payment systems, uncoordinated care, mistakes, duplication, and unnecessary paperwork, the U.S. healthcare system wastes as much as one-third of all spending. “We must step up efforts to detect fraud and crack down on criminals who file false Medicare claims,” says Rand. “We need to focus on improving care and cutting unnecessary tests and procedures, which are often the result of payment incentives and fear of litigation.”
While the leadership at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are quick to point out that their fee-for-service model costs less than the privatized managed care alternative, called Medicare Advantage, they don’t include the fraud, waste and abuse figures mentioned by Rand. If CMS reported the true cost of care — with the fraud, waste and abuse costs factored in — most Americans would horrified.
With the recent cost cutting measures put in place by the CMS to limit health insurance profits and reduce hospital and doctor costs, the healthcare system will be forced to make changes that limit waste. Now it’s time for the Department of Health and Human Service to put the same hard hitting restrictions on itself. Specifically, it’s critical that the CMS implement a modern electronic billing system that requires both the service provider and the Medicare beneficiary to swipe a government ID card that cannot be compromised by criminals.
The Medicare program is not an entitlement that needs reform. It’s one of the nations most successful programs that needs the government to be a better steward of the taxpayers money. Americans don’t need fewer benefits and more taxes to pay for them, we need for our government to do a better job with the money we are already sending.