As we receive our yearly bombardment of aggressive, deceptive marketing from Medicare Advantage providers, we write with an urgent request that all your readers contact President Biden and our members of Congress (senators and representatives) to protect Medicare from privatization.
We understand that Liz Fowler, the chair of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, has the stated goal of fully privatizing Medicare by 2030. We strongly urge your readers to oppose this, as well as the nomination of Demetrios L. Kouzoukas, a board member of Clover, a company whose profits derive from providing Medicare Advantage plans, to serve as the public trustee of the Medicare and Social Security Trust funds.
Medicare was established over 50 years ago as a public good, enshrining the right of all elderly and disabled US citizens to adequate health care supported by the federal government, by the taxpayers and for the taxpayers. By definition, privatization means that private companies will want to run these plans because they will profit from them. As this juggernaut has unfolded, it has become clear that there are indeed huge profits to be made: In 2022, big insurance companies’ revenue reached $1.25 trillion, and profits soared to $69.3 billion.
Medicare Advantage plans allow insurers and hospitals to keep 15 percent of the monthly payments they receive to care for the health needs of their customers for administrative costs and profits. DCE and ACO REACH entities have no minimum spending requirement, and according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, they were estimated to be keeping 40 percent of the money they receive from the federal government. These are taxpayer dollars going into the pockets of private companies, when they should be used to stabilize and enhance the Medicare program itself.
There would be less cause for concern if this transfer of wealth led to adequate and reliable care for Medicare recipients, but it does not. There is already abundant evidence that where profits are at stake, profits will prevail over care, leading to staff cuts, inadequate resources, and higher barriers for diagnostic and therapeutic services. We believe that this trend will only accelerate as insurance and venture capital companies squeeze providers of care more and more tightly to maintain profit margins. With no accountability to the American people, the original intent of the Medicare program will be lost forever.
Medicare Advantage creates a de facto two-tier system for the elderly and the disabled: individuals with the resources to cover copayments and/or supplemental private health insurance plans get traditional Medicare’s superior coverage; those who lack such resources are essentially forced to choose Medicare Advantage plans because of the short-term financial benefits they seem to offer, while not appreciating the serious restrictions on care they will face if and when they become seriously ill.
We appreciate that a looming funding crisis for Medicare has led to the hope that private companies can solve the problem. Private companies will always put profit before patients. This trend, if allowed to become comprehensive, will result in a betrayal of the trust of American taxpayers and an abandonment of one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society. There are a number of important initiatives on the table that address the problem of Medicare insolvency, including “Medicare For All” and other proposals for universal coverage.
Please tell President Biden and your MOCs to fight for these and do everything in their power to reverse the trend to privatize Medicare.
Judy Fletcher is health committee co-chair of NYCD16 Indivisible along with Dr. Deborah Swiderski and Helen Krim is health committee chair of Northwest Bronx Indivisible. Both groups’ full membership endorsed this point of view.