Lessons from the Food Stamp Program for Health Care

June 19, 2012

The Food Stamp program (SNAP) appears to work much better than health assistance programs for low-income seniors, says NCPA President and CEO John C. Goodman in his new book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis.

Currently three Medicare savings programs are designed to make Medicare more affordable for poor and near-poor beneficiaries by paying premiums and eliminating out-of-pocket cost sharing:

  • The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program pays all Medicare premi­ums and out-of-pocket cost sharing for beneficiaries who have incomes at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level and who are ineligible for full Medicaid coverage.
  • The Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Program pays Part B premiums for Medicare beneficiaries with incomes of 101 percent to 120 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • The Qualified Individual Program pays Part B premiums for beneficiaries with incomes of 121 percent to 135 percent of the federal poverty level.

Yet amazingly, fewer than one-third of eligible Medicare beneficiaries enroll in these programs.

Contrast what we do in health care with SNAP, which has about 60 million participants (most of whom are probably also Medicaid enrollees).

  • Low-income shoppers can enter any supermarket in America and buy almost anything the facility has to offer by adding cash to the "voucher" the government gives them.
  • They can buy anything you and I can buy because they pay the same price you and I pay.
  • But we forbid them to do the same thing in the medical marketplace.

Like food, health is gen­erally considered a necessity.  So why not treat it the same way we treat food?  This would make certain that the poor have the wherewithal to pay for their health care not by forcing them to wait or take poorer quality, but with health care dollars.  These health care dollars would be full dollars to providers, ensuring that the poor can complete for resources with all other buyers of care.

Source: John C. Goodman, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, Independent Institute, June 2012.

To read more and purchase the book:

http://www.independent.org/priceless/

 

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