Let’s Privatize Medicare

Paul Ryan proposed a private health insurance alternative to Medicare for future retirees, liberal critics pounced. It’s another scheme to undermine health care for the elderly by “privatizing” and “voucher-izing” the program, they said.

Yet, almost one third of seniors are already in private health insurance plans. They are called Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, plans. And you would be hard pressed to find any Democratic office holder who wants to abolish them. The reason? Seniors choose to be in these plans because they like them better than traditional Medicare.

Not only do seniors like them, but they appear to provide better care for less money. That’s the conclusion of a new study by two Harvard University health economists, Joe Newhouse and Tom McGuire. These mainstream researchers — neither of whom can be called a right-winger – conclude that Medicare Advantage plans not only lower the cost and raise the quality of care for their enrollees, there are also spillover effects. In markets where Medicare Advantage plans have a significant presence, cost goes down and quality goes up for other patients as well – including traditional Medicare patients.