Democrats in Congress Prepare To Push Action on Medicare Spending
Democratic members of Congress are "girding for a major battle" next year over potential Medicare changes, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, regardless of whether Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) or Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) is elected next month, "pressure to act on Medicare is rising as the program grabs a growing share of the federal budget."
Medicare spending totaled $431.5 billion in 2007, almost doubling over the previous seven years, according to the trustees of the Medicare trust fund.
McCain, Obama Stances
Both McCain and Obama have said they would not reduce Medicare benefits but have proposed implementation of health information technology and increased use of generic drugs to reduce costs.
McCain supports increasing out-of-pocket payments for wealthier beneficiaries in the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Many Democrats want to allow the government to negotiate with drugmakers for lower prices under the benefit.
Obama policy adviser Neera Tanden said Obama favors reducing payments to private insurers offering coverage through the Medicare Advantage program to make the payments equal to those in traditional Medicare.
MA next year is expected to pay insurers 13% more, or about $10 billion, than the traditional program, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain's senior policy adviser, said McCain opposes MA payment cuts if proposed alone but could support them "in the context of a comprehensive reform" of the health care system.
The Journal reports that Congress likely will address a scheduled physician payment cut that would take effect at the end of 2009. However, "This time the fee issue could open up opportunities for Democrats to make deeper changes" to Medicare (Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 10/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.