Feds say Medicare changes under health reform law could save billions listen05/12/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Today the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services released a study suggesting improvements to Medicare over the last year will save the government billions of dollars. Some of these cost-saving changes include provisions of the affordable care act. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said efficiency measures will save the government a hefty sum in the coming years.
"About $120 billion worth of savings projected over the next 5 years. Reforming payments to stocks that reward the quality of care, improving patient safety and, as the Congresswoman said, cracking down on fraud and abuse, getting the best value for Medicare beneficiaries on some of the critical programs and making sure that the guaranteed benefits are solvent and secure."
House Democrats are launching a full court press in the face of a budget plan that would remake one of the most popular federal entitlement programs. Today House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said GOP lawmakers are “trying to run away from the vote” as they try to turn Medicare into a voucher system while de-funding the Affordable Care Act. In a conference call today, a House Democrat from Tampa says the Republican proposal would slam seniors with out-of-pocket costs. US Representative Kathy Castor said she has a moral beef with the plan.
"Their recent plan doesn't propose any of those improvements to strengthen Medicare instead they say 'we think the answer is to end Medicare as we know it through privatization.' I think that's wrong."
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan’s budget proposal would de-fund the Affordable Care Act. In 2022, Ryan’s plan would replace the current Medicare model, which covers most health care costs of Americans over 65. By way of a voucher system to pay insurance companies directly, it would cap health insurance costs at $8,000. Castor said there’s been a lot of misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, but as the overhaul eases into place, people are starting to see it’s not the socialized medicine seniors have been hearing from opponents like Senator Marco Rubio.
"Over the past year all they heard was 'Medicare was getting cut, Medicare was getting cut.' When, in actuality under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare is improved and a lot of the reforms in cost saving were plowed right back into better benefits and health care for seniors."
Castor said among provisions that save money are preventative care programs like yearly cancer screenings.
"Seniors on Medicare will receive annual screenings and checkups. These new annual screenings and checkups are covered by Medicare without a co-pay. This insures that our older neighbors receive the preventative care and the checkups they need."
Castor said the Affordable Care Act also saves money by channeling elsewhere funding that’s currently slated for Medicare Advantage, which is a private version of the program.
"Medicare had been overpaying the private health insurance companies the project plans by 14 percent to provide, really, what are the same or occasionally a few more benefits than traditional Medicare. But in doing so they ask beneficiaries on traditional Medicare to subsidize a lot of those extra benefits for those in Medicare Advantage and that's not fair and it wasn't smart and we've taken those savings and extended the life of the Medicare trust fund and plowed a lot of it into improved benefits."
Joining Castor on the call was US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. She said the GOP proposal is indeed less expensive than the Democratic one already in place, but only for the federal government – not for patients. She cited numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office suggesting that an $8,000 voucher would likely cover only about a third of the average beneficiary’s health insurance costs.
"The bills that the federal government pays would go down with the Republican Congressional proposal but that's just because the bill paid by individual seniors would go way up. In fact, it's estimated that after the first 10 years seniors would be paying, out of pocket, about 70 percent of their own health care which is really a staggeringly high number that we haven't seen since Medicare has been in place over the last 45 years."
If passed, the Medicare changes Representative Ryan proposes wouldn’t completely unfold until 2022, but not many people think the changes will pass. Stumbling blocks include a Democratic majority in the Senate and a popular support for keeping the program the way it is. WMNF reached out to several Republican members of the House from Florida, including Gus Bilirakis, Connie Mack, and Vern Buchanan, but none returned requests for comment by air time.