Coburn Medicare Plan Relies On Health Exchanges He Has Denounced

June 29, 2011 8:46 am ET — Jamison Foser

Tom Coburn

The plan Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) announced today to raise the retirement age contains an interesting passage suggesting the change is possible only because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Coburn opposed:

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the insurance options that will be made available to those approaching retirement via the newly created insurance exchanges, it makes sense to adjust the Medicare eligibility age. The Lieberman/Coburn proposal also provides the caveat that if the ACA is repealed, the eligibility age increase to Medicare would be rolled back to its original age of 65.

So, according to Coburn's Medicare plan, the ACA creates insurance exchanges that make it possible to raise the retirement age. But less than three months ago, Coburn's office told the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs he opposes those exchanges:

The kind of market-based solution Dr. Coburn supports looks a lot like Utah's market-based health exchange. It does NOT resemble Massachusetts' heavily regulated, state-level bureaucracy, or the federally mandated exchanges required by Obamacare-both of which are built around an individual mandate and price controls on private health insurance that increase the cost of health insurance for consumers. The main problem with health insurance is that it costs too much-but the changes in Massachusetts have been proven to simply increase the cost of coverage, while failing to improve access.

Dr. Coburn supports states using state dollars to tackle the challenges of their own population. He does not think that any state involved in a lawsuit against Obamacare should use Administration grant dollars to set up an exchange-regardless of whether that exchange looks more like Utah's model or Obamacare's model. He is glad that Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit against Obamacare and will continue to do everything he can at a federal level to overturn this unconstitutional $2.6 trillion law that fails to fix what is broken in our health care system.

And in March, a Coburn spokesperson told a Tulsa World reporter that those exchanges "simply increase the cost of coverage, while failing to improve access":

Both sides in the debate can find some comfort in the answer I got from Becky Bernhardt, Coburn's deputy press secretary. [...]

Specifically, Coburn prefers a model such as has been designed by the state of Utah - the so-called market-based solution - as opposed to the Massachusetts model, which is heavily regulated, bureaucratized, mandates, and tied to the ideas of the federal health care law.

"The main problem with health insurance is that it costs too much - but the changes in Massachusetts and Obamacare have been proven to simply increase the cost of coverage, while failing to improve access," Bernhardt said.

So, three months ago, Coburn thought the "Obamacare" version of insurance exchanges will increase costs and fail to improve access. But now Coburn says the ACA exchanges will increase "insurance options that will be made available to those approaching retirement," allowing him to raise the Medicare retirement age. Has he changed his mind? Or is he just looking for an excuse to raise the retirement age?

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