Are you spending crazy money on your prescription medications? Are you going cross-eyed from the number of medical bills you have? Joe Biden’s healthcare plan might be a good thing for you and your family. Biden wants to make some huge moves in the healthcare of this country. Biden’s Medicare proposal is part of his campaign’s pledge to build on the Affordable Care Act. Let’s break it down.
‘Medicare at 60’
Biden wants to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 from 65, with optional enrollment in that five-year period. Under the current law, people generally become eligible for Medicare on their 65th birthday.
Public health insurance option
Biden wants to create a public health insurance option and expand access to coverage through the health-care exchanges.
Lower prescription drug costs
The plan is to reduce what Medicare beneficiaries pay for prescription drugs. This would require changing the current law that does not allow the government to negotiate prescription prices.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated such a move would save $456 billion from 2023 through 2029.
Biden also would prohibit most drug prices from rising faster than inflation. This would mean placing a cap on out-of-pocket spending in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and allowing consumers to import prescriptions from countries such as Canada.
Biden also wants Medicare to extend coverage of dental, vision and hearing. These are all currently excluded from Medicare, but can be obtained by a Medicare Advantage Plan. Biden would like to see it all be encompassed in one place.
What does Kamala Harris bring to the Medicare table?
After Biden announced his VP, Kamala Harris, people wondered about the thought process behind his decision. In picking Harris, who is 55 years old, Biden has been intentional by choosing a woman who can speak to the target market of the Medicare proposal, which are men and women and minorities in particular. In addition, other groups who have suffered greatly during this economic crisis, such as those also in their mid to late 50s and early 60s who have lost their jobs during the pandemic or those who have been unable to get subsidies to buy individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act, are audiences for which Harris is able to advocate. And given the pandemic and the particularly harsh impact the coronavirus strain Covid-19 has had on Black Americans, Harris’ selection could be a bonus for Biden.
Understanding the current Medicare program
Here’s how Medicare currently works.
- Medicare has never been free. You qualify for Medicare as long as you have at least a 10-year work history of paying into the program.
- Part A (hospital coverage) has no premiums.
- Part B (outpatient care) does have premiums. Note: Higher earners pay more.
- Part D (prescription drug) has premiums as well.
- Medicare’s Part B and Part D are heavily funded by premiums and general revenue (not the current struggling Medicare trust fund).
- There are additional costs, such as deductibles and copays.
- Many beneficiaries use private insurance companies for Medicare Advantage Plans, or Medigap, policies for personalized coverage.
The election outcome will dictate U.S.’s healthcare
The Medicare trust fund’s solvency is the main concern of experts today, in regards to who takes office in November.
“If they are going to do something with health care, I’d start with saving Medicare Part A,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president of policy at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
“It’s not entirely clear how a full dismantling of the ACA would impact Medicare,” said Tricia Neuman, executive director of the Medicare policy program at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But there’s a real risk that it would increase costs for seniors, be highly disruptive for health-care providers and exacerbate solvency challenges facing the Medicare Part A trust fund.”
“That will require Congress and the next president to step in and make sure Medicare is able to meet its future obligations,” said Neuman.
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