Medicare Part D: a Model for Healthcare Reform?
Wait—there are some parts of our healthcare system that are “working”? Yes, just look at the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Using a free-market approach, Medicare Part D premiums are currently half what they were expected to be at this point when the program was enacted in 2003: about $30 per month versus $60 a month from the initial estimates.
Medicare Part D is working because it represents the first significant initiative to rein in health care spending by restoring personal responsibility and proving that government can leverage free-market forces to cut costs while giving seniors more choices.
Former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, writes about this issue in an OpEd for the The Washington Times:
When I served as Speaker of the House, we designed Part D to harness the efficiency of the market in order to give seniors choices and hold costs down. Under Part D’s structure, insurance companies compete for seniors’ business. Insurers negotiate prices with prescription drug makers, driving down costs; then they assemble a coverage package they hope seniors will find more attractive than the ones their competitors are offering.
Part D works well, and it works economically. Over and over again, the Congressional Budget Office has lowered its cost estimates for the program. Medicare Part D is now expected to come in 43 percent below the CBO’s initial estimates.
This is a common-sense approach to Medicare: competition, cost-savings, choice and benefits that actually work. Part D is a program that seniors can count on. Surveys show that more than 90 percent are happy with their coverage under Part D.
Congressional Republicans believe in preserving Part D and its unique market-based approach to health care delivery. They are determined to preserve it for the 29 million American seniors who depend on it.
President Obama and leading Democrats, by contrast, are proposing a rebate/tax structure which amounts to de facto price controls on prescription medications. They simply ignore the demonstrated success of Part D’s competitive structure in holding down drug costs. Research by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has found that under Mr. Obama’s plan, Part D premiums that seniors have to pay would actually rise by 20 to 40 percent.
It’s no surprise that liberal Democrats want to gut the program. They’ve always opposed Part D’s competitive market structure and opposed giving seniors choices in selecting a drug plan. When we were passing Part D into law, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “This is the beginning of the end of Medicare as we know it. Most seniors will be worse off.”
She was wrong. Most seniors are better off because Part D has worked.