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CEOs say their Medicare proposals would save trillions

A trade organization representing chief executive officers from some of the country's top corporations offered a set of Medicare recommendations Wednesday that would potentially save trillions.

In a press conference broadcast live, representatives of the Business Roundtable said the group's recommendations are an effort to guide economic growth and deficit reduction strategy as the country's lawmakers grapple with the debt ceiling and an out-of-control budget.

"We believe that the Business Roundtable's purpose, and our role in public policy debates, is to help solve problems, so we want to put forth thoughtful solutions to some of the nation's greatest challenges," said John Engler, BRT's president and former governor of Michigan.

"We have looked at what must be done to try to make pragmatic changes that occur slowly and predictably … that would sustain the security they provide to the recipients who need the programs most, reduce the current rate of growth in the programs and rationalize some of the things that have occurred since these programs were instituted a long time ago in a way that supports these broader fiscal efforts ...," said Gary Loveman, PhD, a former Harvard Business School economics professor who is now president of Caesars Entertainment Corporation and is chair of BRT's health and retirement committee.

In relation to Medicare (the group also made recommendations for the Social Security program), BRT recommends

  • gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age to 70. The raised eligibility age would not apply to anyone who is currently 55 years old or older.
  • that by 2015, the government should offer seniors the opportunity to choose among competitive private plans and traditional Medicare. Competing private plans would be required to accept all applicants and would risk adjust premiums to account for age and health status.
  • additional means testing for Medicare services.
  • improvements in care coordination and a focus wellness and chronic care management.

[See also: Examining Obama versus Ryan on Medicare spending plans.]

Loveman said that BRT's Medicare recommendations would save $300 billion against the current baseline projection in the first 10 years of implementation, and in 25 years would save around $6 trillion.

"We believe very strongly that our modernization recommendations must be included in any budget deal that is agreed to by the president and Congress," said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T and vice chair of BRT's health and retirement committee.

"We've said all along that Congress and the administration are going to have to take some very real and meaningful steps to reform entitlements if we're going to rein in federal spending, and modernizing Medicare and Social Security to meet both the current fiscal and demographic realities … will go an incredibly long way in getting America's fiscal house in order while preserving a basic safety net for both future generations as well as future retirees. We believe now is the time for America's leaders to step up and act."

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