Thompson’s idea, which he said has been already introduced and advanced “by somebody else,” barrows from Paul Ryan’s premium support model, and would allow seniors to find private coverage. But rather than building a new exchange of private plans, as Ryan has proposed, Thompson would give future retirees access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHB) — a program through which private insurers market health plans to federal employees.
Pressed for more specifics, the former governor and Health and Human Services Secretary grew agitated and admitted that he couldn’t be sure that the proposal would reduce spending. He promised to “use the computers” in Congress to run the numbers, adding, “It’s a plan that I believe more than likely will work”:
Q: So either CBO has scored it out and you haven’t, or you…
THOMPSON: I haven’t scored it out, I have no capabilities…
Q: You’re saying that CBO has looked at your plan….
THOMPSON: They have not looked at my plan. They have looked at a plan similar to this that was put in by…Dee, I’m telling you, I have not scored it. I’m laying the plan out to save Medicare….This is a plan by Paul Ryan, I’ve modified it. I think my plan is better…. When I’m elected to the United States Senate, I have a chance to use the computers and have the access to CBO and I’ll be able to make the necessary things. I’m talking conceptually, about an idea out there that has been advanced by somebody else and I think it makes a lot of sense.
Q: So if you haven’t scored it and you don’t know how much it’s going to save, how do you know it’s going to be a big advance?
THOMPSON: Because Medicare is going broke and we have to do something about it. It’s a plan, Dee. It’s a plan that I believe more than likely will work.
Thompson’s idea shares some similarities with Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) recently introduced Congressional Health Care For Seniors Act, but closely resembles Ryan’s proposal. Ryan’s plan is estimated to significantly increase costs for existing seniors and future enrollees.
Though Thompson claimed that FEHBP could save money, traditional Medicare has done a better job of controlling costs, spending just 2 percent on administrative costs, while private plans in the FEHBP devote 7 to 12 percent to overhead. Medicare’s spending per beneficiary has also increased at a slower rate than the FEHBP’s.