“If you want to provide more benefits to Medicare beneficiaries, it is more efficient to do it through traditional Medicare” rather than private Medicare Advantage plans.”

Simple advice offered to the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee this week by Glenn Hackbarth, head of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an organization created to advise Congress on the Medicare program. But even though MedPAC has repeatedly warned about the wasteful and expensive industry-fueled juggernaut that is Medicare Advantage, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress still refuse to face facts: privatized Medicare provides inefficient coverage, steals years of solvency from the program, costs $10 billion more each year than traditional Medicare while passing more costs on to seniors.

Hackbarth again:
"When Medicare pays a lot more for private fee-for-service in Texas or in Michigan, a lot of that money is going to higher administrative costs. ... It's going to insurance companies. The problem with this payment system is we're rewarding inefficient private plans”.

In other words, we’re subsidizing the insurance industry to provide less efficient coverage for seniors at a higher cost. We’re paying $10 billion dollars a year in industry overpayments while also being told by this administration we “can’t afford” the Medicare program. And don’t forget, the Bush budget calls for a record $178 billion in Medicare cuts directly impacting healthcare access for millions of seniors, while at the same time preserving $150 billion in insurance industry giveaways. You can read more coverage of this week’s Congressional testimony in Kaiser’s roundup.