Moffit vs. Pollack

Civility reined in a potentially heated debate today between Bob Moffit of The Heritage Foundation and Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. The debate, sponsored by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, was advertised as a ?flack jacket event? with a CROSSFIRE-style format and the two experts going ?toe to toe.? Instead, Moffit and Pollack engaged in a calm discussion of ways each believe the House and Senate Medicare bills can be improved and the best way to provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries. Senator Larry Craig, Chairman of the Aging Committee, moderated the debate.

Bob Moffit argued that real reform of the Medicare program is the only way we can stave off the impending financial disaster when the baby-boom generation retires. Moffit said the characteristics of the baby-boom generation are significantly different from those of current Medicare beneficiaries and they have different priorities, such as wanting a choice of private health plans. Moffit also pointed out that Medicare is slow in approving new technologies. Medicare?s slow response to medical advances is further proof that reforms are needed in the program. Moffit said the Senate Medicare bill is ?short on reform and long on government expansion.?

Ron Pollack contended that $400 billion isn?t enough to provide meaningful relief for seniors and that traditional Medicare would be better at providing benefits than private health plans. According to Pollack, only one of five dollars spent by seniors on prescription drugs would be subsidized by the $400 billion in the budget resolution. Pollack also said that 2.4 million people have been abandoned by private health plans that have pulled out of the system because they weren?t profitable. ?What makes people think private plans will work any better than traditional Medicare?? asked Pollack.

Moffit and Pollack did find some areas of agreement. Both believe government subsidies should be targeted to the low-income. Pollack said he believed the Senate bill did a good job of targeting assistance to the low-income. Pollack would like to see a comprehensive universal drug benefit in the traditional Medicare program with the most generous subsidies going to the low-income. But Moffit said he would prefer Title 1. to be stripped out of the Senate bill and replaced by a targeted benefit that provides a $600 subsidy for the low-income and catastrophic coverage along the lines of the Galen/AEI Prescription Drug Security Plan. Moffit said, ?There is no reason why struggling families should have to pay for the health care needs of millionaires living in Boca Raton, Florida.?

When asked if Pollack would support the president?s plan because it targets the low-income with a $600 subsidy for first-dollar drug expenses and provides full premium support for the low-income, Pollack said $600 is ?totally inadequate? because seniors average $3,000 in drug expenses and may make less than $9,000 in income. [A Kaiser study says average drug spending for Medicare beneficiaries without drug coverage this year will be $1,356.]

Another area where the two surprisingly found some agreement was in using the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) as a model for reform. Moffit said he supports using the FEHBP as a model for reform because it provides choices to participants and because there are six to nine competing private health plans in every area. Pollack said he also likes the idea of using the FEHBP as a model because it has generous drug coverage. ?How many senators have a doughnut hole in their coverage?? asked Pollack. He supports providing more money for drug coverage comparable to the drug coverage currently in FEHBP, but keeping the benefit inside traditional Medicare. As for competition, Pollack said he believes in competition but thinks the president?s plan stacks the deck against traditional Medicare and in favor of private health plans. ?That?s not competition,? said Pollack. ?We should let traditional Medicare and private health plans truly compete. Traditional Medicare will come out pretty good.?

–Joe Moser
Galen Institute

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Civility reined in a potentially heated debate today between Bob Moffit of The Heritage Foundation and Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. The debate, sponsored by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, was advertised as a ?flack jacket event? with a CROSSFIRE-style format and the two experts going ?toe to toe.? Instead, Moffit and Pollack engaged in a calm discussion of ways each believe the House and Senate Medicare bills can be improved and the best way to provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries. Senator Larry Craig, Chairman of the Aging Committee, moderated the debate.

Bob Moffit argued that real reform of the Medicare program is the only way we can stave off the impending financial disaster when the baby-boom generation retires. Moffit said the characteristics of the baby-boom generation are significantly different from those of current Medicare beneficiaries and they have different priorities, such as wanting a choice of private health plans. Moffit also pointed out that Medicare is slow in approving new technologies. Medicare?s slow response to medical advances is further proof that reforms are needed in the program. Moffit said the Senate Medicare bill is ?short on reform and long on government expansion.?

Ron Pollack contended that $400 billion isn?t enough to provide meaningful relief for seniors and that traditional Medicare would be better at providing benefits than private health plans. According to Pollack, only one of five dollars spent by seniors on prescription drugs would be subsidized by the $400 billion in the budget resolution. Pollack also said that 2.4 million people have been abandoned by private health plans that have pulled out of the system because they weren?t profitable. ?What makes people think private plans will work any better than traditional Medicare?? asked Pollack.

Moffit and Pollack did find some areas of agreement. Both believe government subsidies should be targeted to the low-income. Pollack said he believed the Senate bill did a good job of targeting assistance to the low-income. Pollack would like to see a comprehensive universal drug benefit in the traditional Medicare program with the most generous subsidies going to the low-income. But Moffit said he would prefer Title 1. to be stripped out of the Senate bill and replaced by a targeted benefit that provides a $600 subsidy for the low-income and catastrophic coverage along the lines of the Galen/AEI Prescription Drug Security Plan. Moffit said, ?There is no reason why struggling families should have to pay for the health care needs of millionaires living in Boca Raton, Florida.?

When asked if Pollack would support the president?s plan because it targets the low-income with a $600 subsidy for first-dollar drug expenses and provides full premium support for the low-income, Pollack said $600 is ?totally inadequate? because seniors average $3,000 in drug expenses and may make less than $9,000 in income. [A Kaiser study says average drug spending for Medicare beneficiaries without drug coverage this year will be $1,356.]

Another area where the two surprisingly found some agreement was in using the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) as a model for reform. Moffit said he supports using the FEHBP as a model for reform because it provides choices to participants and because there are six to nine competing private health plans in every area. Pollack said he also likes the idea of using the FEHBP as a model because it has generous drug coverage. ?How many senators have a doughnut hole in their coverage?? asked Pollack. He supports providing more money for drug coverage comparable to the drug coverage currently in FEHBP, but keeping the benefit inside traditional Medicare. As for competition, Pollack said he believes in competition but thinks the president?s plan stacks the deck against traditional Medicare and in favor of private health plans. ?That?s not competition,? said Pollack. ?We should let traditional Medicare and private health plans truly compete. Traditional Medicare will come out pretty good.?

–Joe Moser
Galen Institute

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About the author