Streamlining Cost Sharing in Medicare: The Impact on Beneficiaries

Hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Alliance for Health Reform, this July 22, 2013 briefing explored the impact on beneficiaries of recent proposals to combine the two main parts of Medicare.

The idea of redesigning Medicare’s benefits has gained increased attention from both Congress and the president in recent years. Medicare, with Parts A, B and D, has a complicated benefit structure, with various cost-sharing requirements and no limit on out-of-pocket spending. As a result, most beneficiaries in traditional Medicare have some form of supplemental insurance coverage (employer-sponsored retiree health plans, Medigap policies, or Medicaid) to help fill in the gaps. Several proposals would combine deductibles for Parts A and B, establish uniform coinsurance rates across benefits, set a limit on beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket spending, and discourage or restrict supplemental coverage.

Speakers addressed some of the key elements in proposals to restructure Medicare’s cost sharing, how these reforms would impact Medicare beneficiaries, what these changes would mean for retiree health benefits and the employers that provide them, and what effect these proposals would have on Medicare spending.

Moderated by Ed Howard of the Alliance and Tricia Neuman of the Foundation, speakers included:

  • Juliette Cubanski, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy
  • Sheila Burke, co-director of the Health Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center and adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government
  • Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center
  • Frank McArdle, independent benefits consultant


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