Support Grows for Medicare Cost-Sharing Reforms

Over the last week, we’ve highlighted two potential area of common ground on Medicare reform: cost-sharing reforms and raising the Medicare age with a buy-in. Even more momentum is building behind Medicare cost-sharing reforms. The Washington Post editorial board has endorsed the idea and called on President Obama to take the lead by including it in his budget proposal.

There are ways to generate meaningful savings that don’t involve either abolishing Medicare “as we know it” or perpetuating the status quo. Among the best ideas is to revise Medicare’s illogical, fragmented structure, so as to present beneficiaries with a streamlined, transparent program that both protects them better and saves medical resources.

No doubt there would be political opposition. But it’s a good sign that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has publicly embraced this kind of Medicare reorganization. So far, Mr. Obama has not — though he has offered other ideas, such as increasing premiums on upper-income beneficiaries, that could work in tandem with the combination of Parts A and B.

The White House view of entitlement reform in general, and Medicare reform specifically, is that it is to be traded for Republican agreement to higher taxes. No doubt the GOP has to move on that front as well. But it would be a badge of leadership for Mr. Obama to take the lead on this idea, rather than ceding it to Mr. Cantor — perhaps by including a version in his forthcoming budget plan. If Medicare reform is in the national interest, and it is, it’s up to the president to say so.

The Post's endorsement comes on the heels of reports that the Administration is planning on including some $400 billion in savings from health programs in the budget proposal, along the lines of his fiscal cliff and sequester offer.

It’s unclear whether cost-sharing reforms will be included in the President’s budget; however, a Wall Street Journal article suggests the President has been open to it in previous negotiations. The article also highlights some of the recent bipartisan support for cost-sharing reforms:

Senior House GOP aides said it was among the deficit-reduction options the White House and Republicans have discussed in the past. They also said President Barack Obama indicated he was open to the idea when he met recently with House Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Sens. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) have pushed it among their colleagues, and a Democratic aide said many Senate Democrats are open to the idea. House Republican leader Eric Cantor of Virginia touted it in a high-profile speech earlier this year.

As we’ve said before, it’s going to take more than just one of these policies ideas to put federal health spending on a more sustainable path. But the growing consensus around these entitlement reform options is a promising step forward toward a broader bipartisan deficit reduction plan.