Reflex: December 15, 2011

Gingrich proposes more Medicare Advantage, reports Sarah Kliff. “What Gingrich proposes sounds a lot like what we have in Medicare right now: A public, traditional Medicare plan coupled with private alternatives, Medicare Advantage, that seniors can voluntarily enroll in.” Austin’s comment: It has become popular among leading GOP contenders to propose reforms to Medicare that are indistinguishable from current Medicare. Gingrich follows Romney who is not following Rep. Ryan. Kevin Drum reminds us what’s wrong with Medicare Advantage.

Speaking of Rep. Ryan, he’s distancing himself from his own Medicare plan too, reports Sam Baker. “Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is moving away from his controversial plan to end traditional Medicare, putting forward a new proposal with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would keep the federally funded program in place. The plan, which Ryan and Wyden plan to unveil Thursday morning, would give Medicare beneficiaries a choice between today’s Medicare and private health plans.” Austin’s comment: I will write more about the Wyden-Ryan plan after I have a chance to review the details. An op-ed by the two legislators appears at the Wall St. Journal.

Mandy Locke finishes her series on the WakeMed v. UNC Health Care competition for Rex Hospital. This installment focuses on the question of what is public and what is private and should the state-owned health system compete with private institutions? Don’s comment:The back story of WakeMed offering to buy Rex Hospital was the $3 Billion budget shortfall that the N.C. General Assembly had to address last session. WakeMed’s offer to buy Rex for $750 Million would close a big chunk of it, and cause the state (via UNC) to divest of an asset they felt the state shouldn’t own in any event. Of course, the $750 Million would be a one-time state budget help, but the asset would be gone forever. The status quo holds for the time being, but the N.C. legislature is looking more closely at what UNC health care should be allowed to do by way of competing against private health care systems.

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