Yesterday, I was pleased to participate in a public event at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on the content of three papers released by AEI this week (generously sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). The first paper, which I wrote, is entitled “The Role of Medicare Fee-for-Service in Inefficient Health Care Delivery.” I argue in it that Medicare fee-for-service is the most important reason that American health care is inefficient, fragmented, disorganized, and costly. It will not be possible to bring about real reform without significant changes in Medicare’s basic financial incentives.
The second paper, written by Robert Coulam of Simmons College and Roger Feldman and Bryan Dowd of the University of Minnesota, examines the benefits of moving toward a competitive bidding approach for the entirety of the Medicare benefit package. Private health plans would submit bids indicating the premium they would require to provide Medicare’s statutory benefits, and those bids would be used, along with the costs of providing Medicare FFS in a region, to determine a fixed government contribution. The authors estimate that this approach would reduce Medicare’s costs by $339 billion over a decade.
The third paper, written by Joe Antos, makes the case for reforming Medicare with a premium support model, including competitive bidding. The paper cites existing models, including the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and other evidence to make the case that harnessing the power of consumer choice and marketplace competition is the only reliable way to discipline costs without harming quality.
The AEI event, which was moderated by Bob Helms, can be viewed in its entirety here. Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health System Change provided helpful comments.