Premium support proposal and critique: Objection 4, complexity

This post is part of a series. If you haven’t read the prior posts in the series, you really should. The introduction explains what I’m doing and links to all posts to date.

Medicare is already very complex, some say too complex. There is research that suggests beneficiaries have difficulty making good choices among the myriad of available plans. Many on Medicare lack the cognitive ability to do the work to do so. Not all of them have children or spouses who can help. Thus, some suggest the right thing to do is to simplify Medicare, not make it more (or even keep it as) complex.

This is not an argument against private plans, per se, but it is one for keeping traditional Medicare as a “safe haven” for those who can’t easily navigate the process of selecting something else. It’s also an argument for some degree of standardization to simplify the selection process, something that would also enhance competition, though reduce innovation (both good innovation, satisfying demand, and bad innovation, in ways that just skew risk selection).

This argument also relates to the feeling among some that private plans will take advantage of beneficiaries. If plans make obtaining care difficult in some way, some beneficiaries could lose access to necessary care.

Finally, there are ways to help beneficiaries navigate plan choices and obtain the care they need. For example, additional resources could be spent on counselors available by phone or in the community. That may not be a substitute for simplifying plan options, but it makes a good complement.

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