Healthcare Advocates Urge Supercommittee to Oppose Medicare Cuts

They’ve sent a letter to Congressman Greg Walden urging him to protect Medicare spending

November 17, 2011 – Nine healthcare organizations – most of which advocate for people with chronic illnesses – are speaking up about proposed cuts to Medicare.

A federal deficit “supercommittee” has one week left to cut $1.2 trillion within the next decade. While that committee may or may not meet its November 23 deadline, Medicare cuts are on the table.

A letter signed by policy advisors from the Cascade AIDS Project, the Arthritis Foundation of Oregon and the Oregon Society of Consultant Pharmacists, along with six other groups – was sent last week to Congressman Greg Walden (R-Oregon) urging him to hold fast in his opposition to Medicare Part D spending cuts.

Although Walden didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Lund Report, a policy statement on his website says Medicare as a whole needs to be reformed and that leaders should build on the success of Medicare Part D.

“Current estimates put the Part D program’s cost to the federal government at less than 41 percent of what was originally projected, and the premiums paid are substantially less. The original projection for average monthly premiums for 2011 was $53, whereas actual premiums are $30,” Walden wrote.

The supecommittee is considering spending cuts for hospital coverage and durable medical equipment along with rebate increases from the prescription drug program.

Reducing prescription drug benefits will have a huge impact on people served by the Cascade AIDS Project, said BJ Cavnor, public policy coordinator. “This is medication people rely on to stay healthy, stay out of hospitals and stay alive.”

He hopes Congress will explore other options to reduce the federal deficit, and work with people on both sides of the aisle to come up with other solutions.

“Medicare is in trouble and it's due to Congress' inaction,” said Dr. Cody Wasner, president of the Oregon Rheumatology Alliance. “We’d like to see them make appropriate solutions.”

Wasner isn’t certain the supercommittee had a sophisticated enough knowledge of the healthcare system to make the kind of decisions it’s considering. “Our organizations are not in favor of these desperate measures to foul up a system that's already broken.”

“We recognize the state of the economy right now,” Cavnor said. “However, there are options. Some of those options include not making cuts. Some of those options include raising revenue. We cannot make cuts upon the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.”

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