Getting Medicare Right

AARP CEO Bill Novelli speaks at the Center for American Progress about the future of Medicare and comprehensive health care reform.

With a flawed healthcare system at the forefront of national debate and consciousness, the Center for American Progress yesterday hosted AARP CEO William D. Novelli, one of the leading voices on the issue, A long-time leader in the fight for a more accessible, efficient and effective healthcare system, the AARP’s vision for the future of Medicare was laid out in Novelli’s speech, “Getting Medicare Right.”

Novelli stressed a number of issues that are crucial to the survival and success of Medicare. He described his vision for Medicare reform “as part of a bigger picture of health care reform in this country…it’s one of the most important domestic issues of our time.”

While lawmakers in Washington have hit partisan gridlock in creating legislation, Novelli insisted that a strong push for improvements to the Medicare program could overcome that impasse and secure action on the issue during the 110th Congress. Such reform, he stated, should include “the goals of protecting Medicare beneficiaries from higher premiums; helping low-income beneficiaries pay for their prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses; and providing health care to millions of uninsured children through SCHIP.”

Novelli also specifically addressed the need to level the playing field between traditional fee-for-service Medicare and privately run Medicare Advantage plans. “Unless we act,” Novelli said, “Overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans will total about $54 billion over five years and will push back the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by two years.”

Yet he also acknowledged the successful policies of Medicare Advantage plans and suggested that they be incorporated into fee-for-service Medicare. These policies include care coordination, reliance on electronic medical records and other information technology, and rewarding physicians who provide effective, efficient, patient-centered care. “Medicare should pay for the quality of care, not the quantity of procedures,” he explained.

Novelli advised that we pay attention to primary care and prevention in order to promote a healthier public and eventually drive down costs. And in addressing the healthcare crisis for people beyond the AARP’s senior citizen base, Novelli advocated for expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and beginning safe re-importation of biological prescription drugs from abroad, starting with Canada.

Novelli’s core message was that Medicare reform is necessary. “Overpayments to Medicare Advantage raise costs for beneficiaries in the traditional program,” he emphasized. “Theses payments are inequitable and fiscally irresponsible—they waste Medicare dollars.”

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