Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Medicare's Night Before Christmas

by Alison Bonebrake, NCPSSM Policy Analyst

'Twas the night before Christmas, yet the Senate and the House
Have yet to fix Medicare due to a political louse.

Seniors were hoping that government would care,
That insurance industry subsidies made their premiums flare.

Those in traditional Medicare couldn’t get it through their head,
why they had to pay subsidies that were so widespread;

Those in private plans felt completely entrapped,
with high out of pocket costs and benefits severely capped,

Seniors wanted Congress to resolve this matter,
and prevent insurance company profits from getting even fatter.

But insurance industry lobbyists began doling out cash,
to preserve the subsidies they’ve collected en masse.

Negotiations received a deadly blow,
When Bush said MA savings are a no-no.

He threatened to veto legislation this year,
that reduced subsides the insurance industry held dear.

Without MA savings, the bill was pared down quick,
And Medicare improvements were no longer a policy pick.

All-in-all the Medicare bill looked pretty lame;
In fact, it was really more of the same.

No preventive, no mental health, no low-income protections!
Only future growth in insurer subsidy projections!

Seniors were astounded, they couldn’t believe the gall,
Bush’s allies in Congress didn’t eliminate subsidies, or reduce them at all!

They passed a short-term doc fix that was incredibly shy
of achieving the priorities the House laid out in July.

The one thing that seniors know is true
is their monthly premiums will increase in dollars of two.

They are charged more to fund MA plans, and if you need proof
The Medicare Modernization Act engorged this illogical goof.

MA subsidies give all taxpayers a reason to frown,
and the 150 billion dollar price tag is sure to confound.

The Medicare HI trust fund is also asked to foot,
the bill for these subsidies which are so hard put.

Subsidies place the trust fund further under attack,
It loses two years of solvency unless they are rolled back.

The unfairness of the situation made seniors anything but merry!
How could Congress pass a bill with public opinion so contrary?

Despite receiving subsidies, didn’t Congress know,
MA plans offered inferior coverage for services seniors couldn’t forgo?

Sure they might give you glasses or even some new teeth,
But hospital stays are costly and other tricks lurk underneath.

Their marketing handbooks must have been written by Machiavelli,
Because sales tactics can be unethical, illegal and just plain smelly.

Unfortunately for seniors, this year no Angel or Christmas elf,
will correct the situation since the issue has been shelved.

As they pay rising premiums with a bit of dread,
they look forward to 2008 and the election ahead.

Politicians who do not address this overpayment quirk,
may very well find themselves in 2009 out of work.

Perhaps the holiday season can convince our foes,
that traditional Medicare is not something they should oppose.

We should preserve social insurance, not arrange for its dismissal,
as we’ve discovered private plans are as thorny as a thistle.

As we approach the holiday, Medicare beneficiaries unite to say
"Happy Christmas to all, and next year we’ll win the fight."

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