PAUL: Health care for seniors

Addressing Medicare’s unsustainable path

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As a physician, I understand the reliance many Americans have on Medicare. However, wasteful spending in Washington has drained the Medicare trust fund. The combination of massive debt, fewer active workers and more retirees is pushing Medicare into bankruptcy. Medicare is nearly $40 trillion unfunded. Simply put, this is an unsustainable path and Obamacare is not the answer.

Washington cannot continue to promise everything to everyone, and it is time for legislators to begin seriously discussing practical and realistic changes to Medicare. That is why next week I will reintroduce the Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act of 2013.

The plan is simple: All seniors will be enrolled in the same health care plan as their members of Congress and other federal employees. By all accounts, elected officials and federal employees receive some of the best health insurance in the country, and it is time for every senior to have access to the best health care in America as well.

The congressional health care plan also is less expensive than the current Medicare plan because it is not administered by government bureaucrats. My plan would save taxpayers $1 trillion over the next 10 years and reduce Medicare’s unfunded liabilities by almost $16 trillion. Individual seniors will save thousands of dollars from their personal health care budgets each year while receiving more generous benefits.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) describes an array of insurance options available to 4 million federal employees and their dependents — roughly 10 million people. The government pays roughly three-quarters of the total costs of insurance plans chosen by beneficiaries based on their individual needs and preferences.

Like Medicare, FEHBP is a regulated marketplace where plans cannot deny coverage to anyone for any reason. Everyone within the plan will pay the same premium regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions.

This plan also makes it easier for insurance plans to enter the market to compete for seniors’ business — including allowing employers to continue covering seniors through retirement.

With my plan, all Medicare-eligible patients could enroll in FEHBP as if they were federal employees, and willing employers can give eligible patients the option of staying on their current plans and still receive the government’s contribution.

In order to make this fiscally possible, the initial eligibility age for seniors will be increased gradually from 65 to 70 over a period of 20 years, and the benefits will be means-tested. However, no current or near-term enrollees will have their eligibility delayed.

Medicare, as we know it, is broken and in desperate need of reform. My plan fixes the Medicare system and gives seniors access to the best health care plans offered to members of Congress and does so without breaking the bank. Seniors deserve to have a world-class health care system, and U.S. taxpayers deserve to have their dollars put to better use in a system that will not eventually bankrupt the country.

Giving seniors the same plan that every member of Congress enjoys is fair, and it saves $1 trillion over 10 years. This common-sense reform is the solution to putting Medicare on a sustainable path.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.

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