Under a section called “mandatory budget options,” the co-chairs propose to “expand cost-sharing in Medicare to promote informed consumer health choices and spending.” What that means is that seniors will pay more out-of-pocket for their medical care. Simpson and Bowles want to reduce the benefits on the Medigap plans that most seniors buy to help fill the holes in their Medicare benefits. The Medigap plans will cover less, and seniors will have to pay more. As Campaign Desk has pointed out, health reform will already raise the cost of certain Medigap plans. Florida seniors need to read about this stuff from their local papers.
Simpson and Bowles also propose to limit the amount of catastrophic expenses Medicare will pay for. But didn’t the health reform law just eliminate caps for catastrophic expenses? No annual or lifetime limits on coverage, remember? Apparently what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.
There was something for everyone in the proposals to like or not like—even the idea of resurrecting the public plan option, which was killed off during health reform. Now you know how far that’s going to get. But many of Simpson and Bowles’s ideas will gain traction on the Hill.
If this story stays in Washington, the public loses. These are not issues for the political elites or the K Street gang to decide. The media must make the connection between what’s being discussed in Washington and what that means for the rest of the country. What will these proposed changes do for the family struggling to make a mortgage payment that finds their mortgage interest deduction trimmed back? Or the unemployed man in his fifties with bleak employment prospects now realizing that he must come up with more money for his later years, since he won’t be able to collect Social Security benefits as early as he thought? Or the widow living on a $13,000 average annual Social Security benefit who won’t get a cost-of-living increase to pay for the higher out-of-pocket medical costs Simpson and Bowles have in mind?
Answering these questions calls for some serious dot-connecting—a journalistic tool underused in the Medicare/Social Security conversation.