Connect One Health expands the argument around the voucher system for Medicare. This is a story about how time affects the cost of healthcare and the fees that seniors pay. Under the current system, Medicare is set up as a fee-for-service system. What that means is that the Medicare plan contracts with healthcare providers and healthcare organizations to pay a specific amount for each covered services. If Medicare pays $40 for your doctors visit and the final cost is $55, then you pay the different.

The Republican controlled Senate and House means that the 2012 voucher idea for Medicare will likely show up as the “solution” for Medicare spending in the 2015 budget. The proposed system is aimed at fixing the Medicare budget. However, opponents of the changes insist that the Medicare budget is not broken, and therefore does not need to be fixed.

What is left out of the argument is how Medicaid will be impacted by these changes and what the burden of cost will be for seniors and States as senior insurance funds are used up under the voucher system.

How Does the Voucher System works?

The voucher system is based on guesstimation. At its base, it would work as follows. Seniors would be allotted vouchers to pay for health care services with the hope that health care providers would cater to senior health services by lowering their prices to attract seniors. It is a mixing of the private healthcare market with governmental managed healthcare market. What is not guaranteed is that the private healthcare market will change to accommodate the voucher system. If that does not occur, then seniors will be left holding the bill for an increased percentage of their healthcare needs and in the process affordable care may be destroyed. That is a big risk to take for people who will not be affected by these changes. Senators on both sides of the court receive health benefits from the government, not the private sector.

Complaints about the system

AARP has noted that while the voucher system might look good on paper it falls considerably short of considering or even addressing the rising cost of healthcare on a year-to-year basis. That problem becomes the problem of seniors who will have to pay more for less health care services. Projections from the Senate estimate that seniors will likely see increases in premiums that may crest 50 percent for Medicare B and other Medicare plans.

Healthcare leaders have pointed out that, in the private sector, the cost of healthcare fluctuates from one area to another. This means seniors in some areas would pay more for the same services that seniors located in other areas would pay. For those seniors who live in higher cost healthcare zones, their voucher credits would be used up quicker, and they would face situations where they would either have to pay for health care or go without care.

Historical Problems

Not so long ago, seniors were faced with a similar situation. That was the high cost of prescription drug coverage before Medicare Part D became available. There are well-documented cases where seniors had to make a choice between buying food or buying medication. That is an example of how the private healthcare sector works. The cost of medications did not decrease to meet the needs of seniors. The pharmaceutical companies complained that medicate was priced based on the expenses incurred to develop the medication. As the government stepped in to fix those problems changes to Medicare Part A, Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans), and Medicare part D changed. Those changes could likely be undone if the voucher system is put into effect.

As open enrollment for 2015 has ended, seniors should focus on what changes they need to make to their health insurance before the senate budget problems are realized. The biggest ledge, which voters, seniors, and politicians must watch, is whether or not a voucher system could work, and if so, would it be a sustainable practice that kept Medicare solvent. Is this a good move for seniors or is this a ploy by politicians to destroy Medicare?