Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: Will Grandpa Get it?

Posted at 11:39 am, December 17th, 2011
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

On Dec. 4, the New York Times, in a 13-paragraph editorial, took an in-depth look at the prospect of changes for Medicare. “What about Premium Support?” the editorial asked and proceeded to raise key questions about the term being touted by those who would drastically change, if not scrap, Medicare. Among the questions addressed by the Times was whether the proposals have been tested. The Times cited “A Good Approach” and “Some Bad Approaches.“ Missing altogether from the analysis is whether any alternative to Medicare will be comprehensible.

That’s an essential question for any program for the elderly. If beneficiaries of a program can’t fully comprehend the way it works, they will have a hard time benefiting from it. Part D, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. is a case in point. The intricate program, with its formularies and tiers, is a nightmare to negotiate.

Years ago, when seniors were bombarded with innumerable choices for supplemental policies that were extremely difficult to compare, the government stepped in and insisted that each insurer limit the choices to the same nine policies.

Medicare itself is not a model of simplicity. But once the explanation of benefits after you utilize the program is mastered, it’s reasonably easy to comprehend. Besides, Medicare has been in existence for so long many seniors are familiar with it.

If the privatizers succeed in scrapping or drastically changing Medicare, they may succeed in fooling seniors into believing the changes are an improvement, but there is no way to disguise complexity. If “premium support” or whatever the new program is called makes life more difficult for seniors, they will know it. A program that’s unmanageable is the last thing people need in their old age.

The press needs to pay close attention to the future of Medicare, including the issue so important to seniors, understandability. The way the Times ignored it is not a good portent. The press will need to report at length on Medicare’s future and then ask, “Will Grandpa get it?”

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