Big Effing Deal: Health Care Reform Reduces Medicare Advantage Premiums 2 Years in a Row

ObamaCareSavesLivesRemember the Republican crocodile tears about health care reform "cutting" Medicare? Of course, what it was "cutting" was the extra subsidy taxpayers provided (to the tune of 14%) to private insurance companies above and beyond the cost of traditional Medicare.

The poutrage wouldn't be complete, of course, without the pretend-Left on a parallel track complaining that health care reform was really only health insurance reform, and it was all in vain because you cannot really regulate insurance companies to bring down rates or costs. Well, a report from the HHS proved both types of naysayers wrong:
On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will be 4 percent lower in 2012 than in 2011, and plans project enrollment to increase by 10 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today. Of people with Medicare, 99.7 percent continue to enjoy access to a Medicare Advantage plan, and benefits remain consistent with those offered in 2011. This follows an earlier announcement that average prescription drug plan premiums will remain virtually unchanged in 2012. [...]

CMS was able to use authority provided by the Affordable Care Act to protect beneficiaries from significant increases in costs or cuts in benefits in 2012, leading to average premium declines for the second year in a row: 2012 premiums are projected to be 11.5 percent below 2010 premiums.
When have you heard this before? In two years, premiums for private insurance plans down 12%? Yes, it's happening. And yes, it's happening because of ObamaCare! Contrary to right wing demagoguery, cutting private insurance subsidies while regulating it better under Medicare is actually resulting in better coverage. And contrary to ideological Left poutrage, the Affordable Care Act is proving that insurance companies can be regulated to give better outcome to patients at a lower cost.

As I have noted on multiple occasions before, the Affordable Care Act actually increased benefits to Medicare beneficiaries in the form of collapsing and closing the drug coverage donut hole and eliminating copays from preventive care. Let's have another look at just how the donut hole is closed in the coming years:
  • 2012: you’ll pay 50% for brand-name drugs and 86% for generic drugs [while in the donut hole]
  • 2013: 47.5% for brand-names and 79% for generics
  • 2014: 47.5% for brand-names and 72% for generics
  • 2015: 45% for brand-names and 65% for generics
  • 2016: 45% for brand-names and 58% for generics
  • 2017: 40% for brand-names and 51% for generics
  • 2018: 35% for brand-names and 44% for generics
  • 2019: 30% for brand-names and 37% for generics
  • 2020: 25% for brand-names and 25% for generics [which is the normal rate outside the donut hole currently]
Quick recap: thanks to ObamaCare, Medicare beneficiaries now get better benefits at a lower cost, even the ones that choose a private plan. To quote Vice President Biden, this is a big f*cking deal.

What we are seeing here is exactly what health care reform is about. It's not about pursuing some ideological agenda or fight. It's not about the ideological and nonsensical battle between the two sides of "eliminate Medicare" (GOP) and "OMG freakout - Obama is 'touching' Medicare!!" (the Piety Left). Instead, it's about persistently staying on the ball to solve problems. It's about helping real people who are having a difficult time paying for their medications. It's about the Medicare beneficiaries who used have a tough time getting their annual checkups because of the co-pay, who can now get their preventive care and checkups without that copay. It's about making sure that our tax dollars go to benefit the people who have earned it rather than to subsidize big insurance.

This is what we need to carry forward from this. It's ObamaCare because Obama cares. And ObamaCare works for ordinary Americans. It works for young adults who can now be insured under their parents' plan. It works for the poor and low-income Americans who are increasingly able to avail themselves to the advantages provided by the community health centers. It works for people with pre-existing conditions who are in desperate need for a medical procedure. It works for children who can no longer be denied coverage for being born with a medical condition. It works for seniors and others on Medicare who need help with their prescription drugs or even just want a better deal from their Medicare Advantage plans.

It will work for more and more people as time goes on and the implementation becomes more complete. In 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, must abide by community rating, participate in an open exchange where middle class Americans will get significant subsidies to purchase coverage, and childless adults in poverty will be covered under Medicaid.

This is important to understand when we look at politics in general today. The focus needs to be on what works and what makes progress, not what fits one certain  ideologically strident point of view. That's where our governance needs to return to. Political fights are a necessary and healthy part of a democracy, but the goal of those fights must always be to find solutions to help the American people, not just to have an argument for argument's sake, or to find rainbows and ponies for a given ideology.

This should be especially true for liberals. We are the ones that believe in greater social responsibility, especially in the public role for health care. We're the ones who believe in strong and effective regulations of industries to protect citizens and advantage consumers. Through the implementation of health reform, it is that vision that is being carried out and bearing fruit. Through the implementation of health reform, America is making the transition into a society where health care is the responsibility of all rather than a privilege for those who can afford it.

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