“As long as I’m president, no one will lay a hand on your Medicare benefits,” President Donald Trump told the seniors at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center. He was celebrating the October, 2019 signing of his executive order to allegedly “protect and improve” the program.
Most of the audience clapped, but some had fallen asleep, and they were wiser for it.
Since he sauntered down the steps of Trump Castle to announce his candidacy, the President has promised not to touch our Medicare and Social Security, and he almost managed to keep this pledge for the first three years of his reign. October marked the end of that promise, and probably the beginning of the end for Medicare for Seniors.
Here’s a chart that shows Paul Ryan’s three main goals that Republicans need to accomplish to lead to the destruction of Medicare – outlined while he was Speaker of the House:
Trump’s executive order manages to fulfill two of Ryan’s three ways to “fix” Medicare:
- Higher premiums for seniors – The current mandatory $271 a month ($3,252 a year) Medicare A & B premium per couple will increase 6.43% next year, while the Social Security COLA increase will be 1.6%. Medicare premiums currently eat up an average of about 10% of Social Security benefits, but rates of 20% or more are expected as the government initiates the Trump doctrine.
- Increased profits for insurers – The establishment effort to end Medicare began in earnest with the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 This Bill Clinton fiasco allowed insurance companies to compete with Medicare by selling Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. These were government-subsidized private policies with HMOs and other cost-cutting features. Since 1997, Republican and Democrat government trustees have reduced traditional Medicare benefits and drastically hiked premiums – all in an effort to end the public Medicare program and replace it with MA.
As a result of intentional policies to privatize senior healthcare, the growth of Medicare Advantage plans has continued – with more than one in three retirees now enrolled:
Trump’s executive order will make traditional Medicare far more expensive than today, and since beneficiaries pay a portion of the cost, senior couples will get hit with premiums projected to reach as much as $6,000 to $7,000 annually.
The President will accomplish this with his mandate that the secretary of Health and Human Services examine raising traditional Medicare reimbursements to “more closely reflect the prices paid for services in [Medicare Advantage] and the commercial insurance market.”
Currently, traditional Medicare negotiates prices to lower them on behalf of seniors. Payments to hospitals and doctors are often half or even a third paid by for-profit healthcare plans. It’s no secret that the medical profession and investors hate Medicare, because it cuts into their huge profits.
By removing Medicare’s ability to negotiate, doctors and hospitals will be able to double or triple prices., leading to double or triple premiums for seniors.
And the more traditional Medicare spends, the higher the reimbursement to Medicare Advantage insurers, since the two are tied together by what is spent on the public program.
So, it’s no secret that insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and Wall Street are in love with Trump’s plan, which will allow even more profits to all.
Why is Trump doing this to seniors?
Republicans like Trump and Ryan consider Medicare “socialism” – simply because it serves the public without giving money to investors. They want a “capitalist” Medicare that allows as much profit as possible for the industry.
Since we pay doctors and hospitals much more than they collect in other countries, Medicare negotiations have kept the costs for 60 million seniors more reasonable. Instead of ending price-cutting in traditional Medicare, we should extend this policy to all healthcare programs.
While there are flaws in the Medicare for All advocated by progressives, the most required feature – besides increasing benefits – is that it would reduce reimbursements to current Medicare levels, or just the opposite of the Trump doctrine.
How important is the existence of Medicare and its regulated low premiums and negotiated healthcare costs?
Medicare today is the only healthcare plan available under law for the vast majority of seniors. You can’t buy any of the plans your children and grandchildren purchase. You are automatically enrolled and even the Affordable Care Act excludes someone older than 65.