Unified Medicare benefit would save billions, study says

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"This plan builds on traditional Medicare, which beneficiaries are more satisfied with than private coverage,” said Karen Davis with The Bloomberg School of Public Health, an author of the study.

"But Medicare is overly complex, and it fails to protect beneficiaries against high costs unless they buy supplemental coverage. Medicare Essential would simplify and modernize Medicare for beneficiaries and help keep premiums and out-of-pocket costs reasonable."

Proposals to combine Medicare coverage under a more comprehensive benefit have received traction on Capitol Hill as part of talks to reduce the deficit.

President Obama said he would consider unifying Parts A and B under one deductible as part of a "balanced" plan to cut government spending while raising some taxes.

House Republicans have also backed the idea of combing A and B, though the idea is drawing criticism from senior advocates and liberal lawmakers who say it will raise premiums for the average senior.

Monday's study allowed for a new cap on out-of-pocket costs in Medicare. It predicted that seniors would spend an average of $354 per month on healthcare costs under "Medicare Essential" compared with a projected $427 in 2014 under the status quo.

Beneficiaries who use high-value medical providers would spend 40 percent less, or $254 per month, the study said.

Savings were attributed in part to lower administrative costs associated with a comprehensive Medicare benefit.

The study was published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.