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HEARING: Tiberi Opening Statement at Health Subcommittee Hearing on Preserving and Strengthening Medicare

March 16, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Today, House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing on Preserving and Strengthening Medicare.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Welcome to the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health hearing on Preserving and Strengthening the Medicare program. This is my first hearing as Chairman of Health, and I would like to say that I am very excited for the opportunity to work with Ranking Member McDermott and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on these important issues affecting America’s seniors. Before getting started, I want to take a moment to welcome Mr. Paulsen of Minnesota and Mr. Lewis of Georgia to the subcommittee as well. I am sure that you will both be valuable additions to the subcommittee.

“Another year and another round of seniors have become Medicare eligible, navigating through the program. However, instead of more choices for these beneficiaries, this year there are fewer. Obamacare’s raid on the program and the increased regulatory burdens on providers, piled on to the outdated structure of the traditional Medicare benefit, cause today’s seniors to be inundated with an array of confusing deductibles, coinsurance and copayments with no protection from high health care costs unless they enroll in a private plan. Despite major improvements and innovations in the health care sector that have transformed how care is delivered, traditional Medicare has barreled through the last 50 years on the same trajectory of increased costs and little innovation.

“And now we see in the Obamacare exchanges the same kind of bureaucratic nonsense that is driving up costs for beneficiaries, while disincentivizing personalized care: plans have one-size-fits-all requirements directed from Washington bureaucrats, not from patients or providers. Yet while the Administration continues to struggle to implement Obamacare by setting government standards for benefits and care, this Committee will begin the long look at how to make sure the patient is at the center of health care decisions. That begins with long overdue reforms to the outdated Medicare benefit. It is time to continue these efforts, sustained by the Bipartisan Policy Center, and other bipartisan partnerships like Bowles-Simpson and Thomas-Breaux, to bring true entitlement reform to traditional Medicare. Their research, modeling, and work over the years to advance long-overdue reform has been critical.

“Updating the Medicare benefit design will bring the program into the 21st Century and meet the needs of current and future seniors. These reforms would bring the traditional fee-for-service benefit up to the standards that 17 million people, nearly 32 percent of enrolled seniors, are currently enjoying under the Medicare Advantage program. MA plans offer high quality, coordinated care for our seniors. These plans also provide stability: largely stable copayments; financial protections provided by maximum out of pocket limits; and strong incentives under their benefit structures to encourage seniors to receive the most high value, efficient care possible.

“Of course, Medicare Advantage isn’t perfect. But its popularity and market-based roots serve as an excellent example for needed entitlement reform. For the MA program to be the bridge to entitlement reform, we need to unshackle the program further. We should repeal such onerous Obamacare policies such as the cap on benchmarks and expand ideas like value-based insurance design throughout the entire MA program.

“While we are encouraged by the growth in seniors choosing innovative value-based care through Medicare Advantage, we remain concerned about the viability of the overall Medicare program. Congress must come together to find common sense policies that will ensure the solvency of the program, like combining the deductibles under Part A and Part B of Medicare and empowering seniors and providers with choice.

“This will likely mean some hard choices, some education, and lots of compromise. I hope that this hearing can kick off a robust discussion on what policies we can get done to provide for the future of the Medicare program, as well as what past policies stand to go as they are hampering our goals to get to high-value, coordinated health care for all seniors.”