Privatizing Medicare would raise premiums for 59% of members

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Shifting Medicare to a privatized program, a proposal touted by Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan on the presidential campaign trail, would create large disparities in premium costs, many of which would rise dramatically, throughout the country, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If that plan took effect two years ago, 59 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, or about 25 million people, would have paid higher premiums unless they switched to a cheaper plan, and 88 percent of Medicare Advantage members would be paying higher premiums, Kaiser Health News reported.

"If coupled with caps on the growth in Medicare spending, a premium support approach could make federal (spending) for the Medicare program more predictable but also increase costs and financial risks for beneficiaries over time," the report states.

Premiums also would vary regionally, with 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey paying higher premiums. In Florida, Medicare members could see their premiums rise by at least $200 per month, according to Politico Pro.

However, in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii and Wyoming, Medicare members wouldn't see the higher premiums. "These findings underscore the potential for highly disparate effects of a premium support system for beneficiaries across the country," states the report.

Although the researchers admitted the study was modeled on the Romney-Ryan proposal to allocate a fixed amount of money to Medicare members to purchase their own health plan from private insurance companies, they said the findings aren't a specific analysis of that Republican plan. A key difference between the study's hypothetical privatized scenario and the Romney-Ryan plan is that Romney has pledged additional financial help for low-income seniors and those in frail health, reported the Associated Press.

To learn more:
- here's the Kaiser study (.pdf)
- check out the Associated Press article
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- see the Politico Pro article

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