Opinion Columns & Blogs

Don’t turn Medicare into voucher system


Proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher system would take health care in precisely the wrong direction – pushing up costs for current and future retirees, and eroding protections that Americans have earned through many years of hard work and taxes.

Yet, in a short-sighted attempt to save money, vouchers are being promoted on Capitol Hill as an answer to rising costs.

They are the wrong answer.

Vouchers pose troubling risks for the more than 456,000 Kansas residents who are currently in Medicare, not to mention the more than 565,000 Kansans age 50 and older who will enter the program in the next 15 years.

Fortunately, President Trump has promised to protect Medicare and Social Security. At one point, he told older voters: “I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare. You made a deal a long time ago.”

Congress needs to follow the president’s lead.

Vouchers would break a basic promise of Medicare, which is to provide a guaranteed benefit package. Under a voucher system, sometimes known as premium support, the basic promise could be tossed aside. Instead, consumers would get a fixed dollar amount to help pay for care in the private marketplace.

And if that amount turns out to be insufficient, tough luck.

Yes, Medicare needs to be strengthened for future generations, but shifting costs to seniors and workers who’ve paid into the system their entire working lives is the wrong approach.

We can put Medicare on stable ground with commonsense solutions, such as clamping down on drug companies’ high prices, improving coordination of care and use of technology, and cutting out over-testing, waste and fraud.

AARP is committed to working with elected officials of both parties to ensure that Medicare remains financially stable. But solutions must be responsible.

If you share our opposition to vouchers for Medicare, please contact your members of Congress to make sure your voice is heard.

Maren Turner is the Kansas director of AARP.