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‘Cancel This Failed Experiment’: Physicians Tell Biden HHS to End Medicare Privatization Pilot

(COMMON DREAMS) JAKE JOHNSON, January 24, 2023

The program “presents a threat to the integrity of traditional Medicare, and an opportunity for corporations to take money from taxpayers while denying care to beneficiaries,” said Physicians for a National Health Program.

A national physician group this week called for the complete termination of a Medicare privatization scheme that the Biden White House inherited from the Trump administration and later rebranded—while keeping intact its most dangerous components.

Now known as the Accountable Care Organization Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (ACO REACH) Model, the experiment inserts a for-profit entity between traditional Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers. The federal government pays the ACO REACH middlemen to cover patients’ care while allowing them to pocket a significant chunk of the fee as profit.

The rebranded pilot program, which was launched without congressional approval and is set to run through at least 2026, officially began this month, and progressive healthcare advocates fear the experiment could be allowed to engulf traditional Medicare.

In a Tuesday letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) argued that ACO REACH “presents a threat to the integrity of traditional Medicare, and an opportunity for corporations to take money from taxpayers while denying care to beneficiaries.”

The group, which advocates for a single-payer healthcare system, voiced alarm over the Biden administration’s decision to let companies with records of fraud and other abuses take part in the ACO REACH pilot, which automatically assigns traditional Medicare patients to private entities without their consent.

CMS said in a press release Tuesday that “the ACO REACH Model has 132 ACOs with 131,772 healthcare providers and organizations providing care to an estimated 2.1 million beneficiaries” for 2023.

“As we have stated, PNHP believes that the REACH program threatens the integrity of traditional Medicare and should be permanently ended,” Dr. Philip Verhoef, the physician group’s president, wrote in the new letter. “Whether or not one agrees with this statement, we should all be able to agree that companies found to have violated the rules have no place managing the care of our Medicare beneficiaries.”

Source: Common Dreams