Unintended Consequences Make “Government-Provided Health Care” a “Fiscal and Regulatory Nightmare”

(p. A17) The private plans participating in Medicare’s prescription-drug program, known as Part D, currently draw on three sources of revenue to finance prescriptions: out-of-pocket payments from patients, premium payments made by plan members, and subsidies from the federal government. In 2025, under the Inflation Reduction Act, both government subsidies and out-of-pocket payments by patients are scheduled to be cut sharply. The difference will have to be made up by premiums. But the statute inhibits this third revenue source, which is also subsidized, from increasing more than 6%. That’s hardly enough to cover inflation, let alone compensate for the other two revenue losses.

. . .

Existing plans have room to cut benefits, although the original Part D statute limits their ability to do so. As plans are under no obligation to take a loss, their other choice is to exit the market, which from the patient’s perspective means that all the benefits disappear. In essence, the Inflation Reduction Act statute may prohibit Part D plans from being economically viable, even if it doesn’t explicitly ban them.

. . .

Welcome to the fiscal and regulatory nightmare known as government-provided health care, where those writing the rules don’t understand the consequences of what they do. Democrats hate that Medicare Advantage has been available as a pseudo-private alternative to original Medicare’s single-payer arrangement. Yet they have (unwittingly?) passed a law that so thoroughly disrupts traditional Medicare as to render it the worst of the Medicare options.

For the full commentary, see:

Casey B. Mulligan and Tomas J. Philipson. “The Inflation Reduction Act Comes for Medicare.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, November 22, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 21, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

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