Categorized | Technology

Op-Ed — Medicare and seniors: keep the free market alive

When it comes to healthcare, there are a few things that are important for Oklahoma’s seniors: quality, expediency, and prices. Our senior population relies heavily on Medicare for all of these things, and it’s important that we maintain a system that can deliver them, specifically when it comes to Medicare Part D, the prescription drug component of Medicare that provides seniors with vital medications. At present, 89,043 people are enrolled in Oklahoma’s Medicare Part D plan, and Medicare Part D should remain untouched as a free market entity so that it can serve its purpose in an effective manner. 

Bureaucracy in healthcare is akin to a hot air balloon. It floats above the rest of us, moving slowly, only able to accommodate a few passengers at a time. While it sounds like a nice way to travel in theory, it certainly is not the quickest. If you’re trying to get somewhere with healthcare, most of us would rather take a leer jet, and the free market is the leer jet of healthcare. With companies competing to offer plans and prescriptions, seniors and others that are eligible for Part D can get the highest quality of medications at the lowest prices.

The VA model cuts the benefits of healthcare for seniors short. Like that hot air balloon, they’ve been notorious for moving slowly (sometimes backed up for months in appointment scheduling), and limiting drug choices for patients. To the contrary, Medicare Part D can be called one of the most successful federal programs, mostly due to its partnership with the private sector. According to the American Action Forum, in 2018, beneficiaries in every state will have access to at least 19 stand-alone Medicare Part D plans. At present, Oklahoma has 34.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, in 2016, Part D expenditures were $100 billion, or less than half of the cost projected by the CBO in 2006. In the first ten years of the Part D program, total expenditures were $555.8 billion less than originally projected, and this is without affecting the quality of the care for the patient. In fact, according to Medicare Today, a survey conducted by Morning Consult found that “87 percent [of people] are satisfied with their Part D coverage and 90 percent believe their prescription drug costs would be much higher if they didn’t have prescription drug coverage through Part D.”

The success of Part D can be largely attributed to its private-sector model which forces competition and innovation among pharmaceuticals and insurance companies, which then reduces the beneficiaries’ drug costs. The program should be kept as is and the success of this program should be used as a model for other federal programs.

Bobby Cleveland is a member of the House of Representatives for House District 20. 

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