Should they pick a less expensive plan, they could use the leftover federal funds to pay other medical expenses, like co-pays and deductibles. The Romney camp provides no cost or savings estimates.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, likes the idea.
Congress can introduce the powerful forces of consumer choice and competition into Medicare, forcing health plans and providers to deliver value for taxpayer and beneficiary dollars, it said in a recent report.
All sides agree that something has to be done to control Medicare costs and, to a lesser degree, Social Security. The report issued last month by the programs trustees urged: Lawmakers should not delay addressing the long-run financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare.
Social Securitys financial shortfall is less urgent; the trustees estimated that its trust fund reserves will be exhausted in 2033. After that, tax income would be enough to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2086.
Medicares situation is more dire. The trustees estimated that the programs hospital insurance trust fund will be depleted by 2024.
President Barack Obama last month described the problem in a speech to newspaper editors. Because health care costs keep rising and the baby boom generation is retiring, Medicare, we all know, is one of the biggest drivers of our long-term deficit. Thats a challenge we have to meet by bringing down the cost of health care overall so that seniors and taxpayers can share in the savings, he said.
He blasted the Republican plan for premium support, saying, Its a bad idea and it will ultimately end Medicare as we know it.
Democrats major strategy for cutting costs is the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board, created by the 2010 federal health care law. The board, appointed by the president and subject to Senate confirmation, would include physicians and patient advocates. It will recommend ways to save money. The laws provisions aim to strip about $480 billion from Medicare costs over the next 12 years.
Obama touted the commission last month as a panel not made up of bureaucrats from government or insurance companies, but doctors and nurses and medical experts and consumers, who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best way to reduce unnecessary health care spending while protecting access to the care that the seniors need.
Republicans claim the panel would have too much power to make important medical decisions. It wouldnt, because its recommendations would be subject to congressional review. In March, though, the GOP-led House of Representatives voted to do away with it. That proposal is going nowhere in the Democratic-run Senate.
You have two fundamentally different approaches, said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.