At tonight's final presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace plans to touch the third rail of American politics: entitlements.
Of primary concern is our need to reform Medicare. Decades of disregard for the health care program's financial issues have put the program on an unsustainable path. If Washington fails to act soon, current and future seniors may not receive quality, affordable care – and the peace of mind that comes with it.
We still have time to save Medicare, but our options to course-correct narrow with each passing day. The new report from the Committee for Economic Development, Modernizing Medicare, lays out the challenges along with nonpartisan solutions.
Saving Medicare requires harnessing competition to make the program more efficient, without sacrificing quality. Fortunately, Medicare Advantage, which almost a third of seniors already use, provides a perfect model. But before discussing the solutions, it is necessary to understand the policy shortfalls that affect traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
Under its current structure, traditional Medicare does little to keep costs down while keeping quality up. This is because it is fee-for-service-based – the more services, the more fees. This has proven to be a recipe for artificially high, expensive health care.
Problems also afflict Medicare Advantage, which unlike traditional Medicare, provides coverage through private plans. Medicare Advantage plans compete for seniors' business; however, rules shackle the program's plans from truly competing on value – high quality at the lowest possible costs for seniors.