GOP isn’t alone in pushing for Medicare changes
CMS seeks to kick-start the push for ACOs with three initiatives
The desire for Medicare benefits has trumped concerns about Medicare costs for decades. Now congressional Republicans are betting that historic debt and deficits have changed the equation, and Democrats are ready to call their bluff.
Yet even as Democrats are stepping up attacks on a Republican deficit-reduction plan that would overhaul Medicare, at least some are conceding that significant changes are needed to bolster the program’s long-term viability and the federal government’s fiscal balance.
The parties will face off over the issue this week as the Senate is expected to hold its first vote on a Republican budget plan that includes controversial plans to transform Medicare from an open-ended entitlement to a system of individual payments for private insurance coverage.
“The Republican budget, pure and simple, would pull out the rug from under seniors to finance tax cuts for billionaires,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said at a news conference last week about the $2 trillion in tax cuts in the House budget.
But some form of change is needed in the program, if only to keep it from fueling everlarger deficits, noted Democrats such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. In an appearance on CNBC’s “The Call” last week, Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the nation must put everything on the table to reduce the deficit. When pressed if that included Medicare, she said yes.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, during a rare appearance at a Capitol Hill news conference, agreed that cuts to Medicare are needed. She touted President Barack Obama’s deficitreduction “framework” introduced in April, which also included Medicare cuts. Although Obama’s plan is vaguely sketched, with many of its Medicare cuts to be determined by the healthcare law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, it would cut Medicare by $340 billion over 10 years.
“The approach that Democrats in Congress and the president want to take is to improve Medicare, and it’s already under way thanks to last year’s healthcare law,” Sebelius said May 19.
The calls for Medicare changes by senior Democrats—who generally are seen as its most reliable defenders—has persuaded healthcare provider advocates to take seriously the calls of leaders of both political parties for bolstering its long-term fiscal outlook as the key to reining in growing federal deficits.
“There’s not just smoke, there’s real fire