The Medicare Commission Says It Wants Your Input...But
Does it, Really?
October 13, 1998
The National Medicare Commission deserves your attention.
Created by Congress in 1997, the Commission is going
to reform the health insurance program that will cover
you at age 65. Chaired by Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA) and
Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), the Commission is expected
to release final recommendations to Congress in the
spring of 1999.
How the Commission Affects You
There are several reasons why you should watch this Commission
carefully. First, on reaching age 65 you will be forced
to join Medicare Part A, which pays for hospital care,
if you want to recoup the Social Security contributions
you've been compelled to make all your working life. Therefore,
decisions made about Medicare today, such as coverage
and co-payment amounts, are going to affect your
health-insurance plan tomorrow.
Your Money, Their Interests
Second, Medicare is a highly politicized program, and
individual Americans rarely have a say in important decisions
about it. Has anyone ever asked you what types of services
should be covered under the $200 billion-a-year program?
Did anyone ever ask you whether we should use scarce Medicare
dollars to pay for the training doctors instead of, say,
covering prescription drugs? Probably not. That's because
Medicare decisions are usually made by large lobbying
groups that have vested financial and political interests
in the program.
False Democratic Process?
Third, the Commission is pulling the wool over our eyes.
It claims it wants suggestions from the public, but it's
not allowing adequate time for citizens to respond. Consider
this: On August 13, the Commission released a notice headlined,
"Call For Solutions: The National Bipartisan Commission
on the Future of Medicare Wants Your Ideas." It
went on to say the 17-member Commission "is calling on
all professional and volunteer organizations and citizens
to submit their ideas and plans about how Medicare can
be improved for future generations. The Commission will
invite organizations and individuals to share their ideas
in brief oral testimony at the Commission's September
8 meeting in Washington, D.C."
Sound democratic? Hardly, especially when you consider
that the Commission requested feedback by August 24-only
seven working days after notice was given! Not much
time for Americans to learn about the Commission's call
for solutions and to prepare their suggestions.
Why the short period? You'll have to get that answer
from the Medicare Commission.
You can contact the Medicare Commission by calling
(202) 252-3380, writing c/o The National Medicare Commission,
101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C. 20540-1998;
or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You
can learn more about the Commission by visiting its
website at http://medicare.commission.gov.