So what’s the public opinion on improving Medicare?
Are the needs of the seniors being met adequately by Medicare or is there something which can be improved? A number of policymakers, elected officials and thought leaders have given their perspective on how the program can be changed. Limited efforts however have been placed at understanding how the public would change the design of Medicare.
Just recently, the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute co-hosted a briefing on the results of a project conducted in California which did exactly this. The MedCHAT project as it is called was sponsored by Center for Healthcare Decisions and asked 800 residents i.e. the common man, community leaders as well as health care professions to consider the benefits of Medicare currently and decide and state whether these should be changed or not. Those taken part of the project fully represented individuals of different ages, education levels, race, income level and ethnicity.
With the use of an interactive computer based system, these participants were asked to respond to social decision makers. They were asked with trying to make Medicare a program which can be more responsive to the needs of the current as well as the future generations and that too without having to impose a great cost burden on the country.
The MedCHAT contained 12 categories of possible changes which could be brought to the Medicare coverage. The most common health care needs were described and included early chronic conditions, complex chronic conditions and long standing illnesses of patients which were incurable and who were in their final stages of life. Within every category were 1-3 levels of benefit where respondents could decide to stay at the present level opt for more or less coverage or could even reject it altogether. Additional benefits could also be added by them.
The results from the report showed that 77% of them added long term care benefit, 95% included dental, 85% of them included hearing and vision; 81% added transportation for non-emergency medical and 69% enhanced the mental health coverage which was presently provided.
They also stated that traditional Medicare wouldn’t include an unrestricted choice of hospitals or providers anymore and 82% of them decided that everyone would enroll as part of the provider network. 65% however also included the compromise that primary care providers could refer patients of Medicare outside of the network if they believed there was adequate reasoning for doing so.
The report also stated that low value care would no longer be covered by Medicare in the way high value care is. 80% of individuals felt that this stricter coverage should be applied to those having complex chronic conditions. Thus this suggests that the limited resources at hand should be used for doing the most good.
Lastly, while palliative care and hospice would be available for patients in their final phase of life, 65% of respondents felt that Medicare shouldn’t have to pay for long-shot treatments and 97% also said that Medicare shouldn’t have to cover the cost of the ICU for patients who were already dying.