Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perot Writes His Prescription for Medicare, Medicaid in Some Ways, His Medicine Is Milder Than the Republicans'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perot Writes His Prescription for Medicare, Medicaid in Some Ways, His Medicine Is Milder Than the Republicans'

Article excerpt

ROSS PEROT may be a political maverick, but not when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid. His prescription for curing two programs closely resembles the strong medicine being concocted by House and Senate Republicans as they prepare for a Capitol Hill fight next month.

"If the United States can put men on the moon and bring them back, then surely we can figure out how to save and improve Medicare and Medicaid," Perot declares in a just-published book, titled "Intensive Care."

The book lays out Perot's ideas on how to overhaul the Medicare and Medicaid health programs and cut their growth rates to avert a budget "train wreck." It outlines the problem as he sees it: Program costs are rising so fast that without some action, Medicare's hospital program will go broke in 2002 and combined federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid will skyrocket from $267 billion a year to $690 billion in 2005.

Perot's options for holding down the growth of Medicare, which covers 37 million elderly and disabled Americans, include cutting payments to doctors and hospitals, forcing beneficiaries (particularly the well-to-do) to pay more, and giving beneficiaries an option to buy their own health policies on the private market with a government-funded voucher.

The voucher choices could include fee-for-service plans; HMOs, where a health group would provide all services for a predetermined annual fee; and Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs), where a person buys a policy to protect against "catastrophic" costs but must pay for the first few thousand dollars of care each year out of pocket.

It's not surprising these options are similar to Republican proposals. In the past, Perot often has taken a market-oriented approach to the government's problems, as do many Republicans. Moreover, the brain trust behind the book includes former Bush administration adviser Deborah Steelman, an attorney now representing Prudential, Aetna, Cigna and other insurers that favor a market approach; Ron Anderson, the head of Parkland Hospital in Dallas; Mike Poss, chief financial officer of the Perot business group; and Russell Verney, executive director of United We Stand America. …

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