Senior Groups Support Medicare Reductions
December 3, 2009 -- Yesterday three of the leading senior groups that defend Medicare beneficiaries came out in support of the Senate health reform legislation.
The same bill has drawn fire from several physician groups over cuts to Medicare. But AARP, the nation's most influential senior group, backs the Democrat's bill in the Senate.
With a Senate showdown looming, the politically potent AARP rode to the rescue of Democrats on Wednesday, supporting $460 billion in Medicare cuts to help pay for landmark health care legislation.
As Republicans pressed to restore the cuts, AARP said Democrats merely were recommending elimination of waste and inefficiency within the giant health care program for seniors.
"Most importantly, the legislation does not reduce any guaranteed Medicare benefits," A. Barry Rand, the AARP's CEO, said in a letter to senators.
Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain, said seniors would lose some of their add-on benefits that are part of coverage under private insurance Medicare. "Above all, we must not use Medicare as a piggy bank" to pay for other programs, the Arizona Republican said.
Addressing the McCain amendment directly, the Medicare Right Center and the Center for Medicare Advocacy issued the following joint statement yesterday.
Joint Statement by Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker and Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director Judith Stein on McCain Amendment to Senate Health Reform Bill
New York, NY—The amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offered by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, is couched as an effort to protect Medicare. It is not. In fact, if this amendment passes, it would kill the bill and the very real benefit improvements it makes for people with Medicare.
By curbing the annual reimbursement increases to hospitals and other facilities and by bringing subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans more in line with costs under Original Medicare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by five years. By reversing the payment provisions in the bill, the McCain amendment would keep the Medicare trust fund on its current path to bankruptcy in 2017. The amendment even rescinds provisions that deliver savings by reducing hospital readmissions and improving care coordination.
The McCain amendment would overturn the bill’s provisions that rein in the overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans. These overpayments will cost taxpayers $170 billion over the next ten years. They threaten the financial sustainability of Medicare and raise premiums for all people with Medicare, including the vast majority who are enrolled in Original Medicare.
Most importantly, by derailing efforts to pass health reform, the McCain amendment would prevent the benefit improvements in the bill for people with Medicare from becoming a reality. Instead of paying half-price for their medicines when they fall into the coverage gap in the Medicare drug benefit—as they will next year if this bill passes—older adults and people with disabilities will struggle to pay the full cost of their medicines, or will continue to skip doses and split pills as they do today. Further, people with Medicare will not see the savings or improved health from the bill’s improvements to preventive benefits if the McCain amendment passes and health reform does not. Instead, all people with Medicare and the Medicare program itself will be harmed.