Medicare Reform:

Leading Proposals Lay Groundwork, While Design Decisions Lie Ahead

T-HEHS/AIMD-00-103: Published: Feb 24, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed two leading proposals on Medicare reform: (1) the President's Plan to Modernize and Strengthen Medicare for the 21st Century; and (2) S. 1895, entitled the Medicare Preservation and Improvement Act of 1999, which is commonly referred to as the Breax-Frist proposal.

GAO noted that: (1) the elements of restructuring of Medicare as proposed by the President and Breaux-Frist are best understood in light of Medicare's current structure; (2) from the perspective of the program's benefit package, most beneficiaries have two broad choices: they can receive health care coverage through Medicare's traditional fee-for-service program or through its managed care component, called Medicare Choice; (3) the choice between traditional Medicare and a Medicare Choice plan typically involves certain trade-offs related to selection of providers, services covered, and out-of-pocket costs; (4) the President's plan and the Breaux-Frist proposal are similar in three key areas but contain two major differences; (5) to varying degrees, both proposals: (a) introduce a competitive premium model, similar in concept to the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, to achieve cost efficiencies; (b) preserve the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program with enhanced opportunities to adopt prudent purchasing strategies; and (c) modernize Medicare's benefit package by making coverage available for prescription drug and catastrophic Medicare costs; (6) the proposals differ, however, in the extent to which traditional Medicare could face competitive pressure from private plans; and (7) under the President's plan, the Health Care Financing Administration would administer the program, whereas under the Breaux-Frist proposal, an independent Medicare board would perform that function.

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