Beware of Medicare Reformers' Empty Promises
November 20, 2003
(Washington, D.C.)Today's Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Newt Gingrich urging conservatives to support the proposed Medicare reform bill. He argues Republicans should sign onto the $400 billion Medicare prescription drug bill because it includes a provision for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). But before Americans take the bait, they first should consider how previous health reform proposals and laws have failed to lower costs and increase access to health care.
"With Medicare's impending bankruptcy, Americans simply cannot afford any more empty promises," said Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom and author of Medicare's Midlife Crisis (published by the Cato Institute). "It is critical for all citizens to become informed about our nation's track record on health reform to make sure we don't repeat past mistakes."
She continued, "If history is any indication, the current proposal of tying HSAs to Medicare reform will cost us much more than it delivers. Taxpayers should not be forced to finance a new $400 billion Medicare prescription drug benefit in order to get tax breaks for HSAs."
Health Reform Track Record: What Have Past Laws Delivered?
1996 HIPAA Law Failed to Significantly Improve Health Insurance Coverage
The bipartisan "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996" (HIPAA) was sold to the American public as a way to make health insurance more affordable and portable. It also was touted as offering some Americans more choice by introducing Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). However, supporters and critics agree that HIPAA failed to significantly improve access to lower-cost health insurance and MSAs have not worked well because of regulatory barriers.
The one thing HIPAA did achieve is that it included the Administrative Simplification provision (a key feature of the Clinton Health Care Plan) that resulted in all citizens losing control over their personal health information.
Balanced Budget Act of 1997 Transformed Medicare into a Canadian-Style Program
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 included a Medicare provision (Section 4507) that limits seniors' freedom. It says that before any doctor or other health-care provider can accept private payment from Medicare-participating seniors for Medicare-covered services, the provider must promise not to accept Medicare payments from all Medicare-participating seniors for two years. This provision was challenged in federal court, but the court ducked the question of the section's constitutionality.
Source: Institute for Health Freedom news release.