Herger introduces Medicare reform bill
Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, on Tuesday introduced a bill he said would reform Medicare and begin to put it on a solid fiscal foundation.
The measure is called the Save and Strengthen Medicare Act of 2012.
In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, Herger said he and staff members have worked on the legislation for more than two years and that hearings have been held on parts of it.
Under Herger's bill, private insurance plans would bid to offer Medicare coverage, and the traditional government Medicare program would also bid, said Darin Thacker, Herger's legislative director.
The bidding would be done in 26 geographic regions. The amount the government would contribute per beneficiary would be the amount of the lowest bid, whether it came from traditional Medicare or one of the private plans, he said.
Beneficiaries would be free to choose any plan they wanted, but if they chose plans that cost more than the lowest bid, they would have to pay the difference themselves.
Although he is retiring at the end of the month, Herger said he would send his bill to the House Ways and Means Committee in the hope that the panel would take it up next year.
He said he hopes his plan could form the basis for a bipartisan solution to Medicare's fiscal problems.
"Once we get through this fiscal cliff, I think we have to begin reforming Medicare to save it," he said.
Some of the things Herger's bill would do are:
• Create incentives for seniors to enroll in Medicare when they are 67 instead of 65.
• Rein in over-use of medical services by requiring all Medicare supplement plans to have co-pays. Then there would be an incentive for people to think about whether or not they really needed to see the doctor.
• Employ means testing, so wealthy beneficiaries don't get government support they really don't need.
"The congressman has selected ideas from across the ideological spectrum," said Dave Meurer, Herger's communications director. "This is not just a Republican wish list. It's a serious attempt to address what everyone admits is a mathematics problem."