Obama Looks To Ease Seniors’ Concerns About Health Reform Efforts
At an AARP forum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, President Obama sought to allay seniors' fears that plans to use Medicare savings to help fund a health care overhaul would limit their health benefits, the Wall Street Journal reports (Adamy, Wall Street Journal, 7/29).
Polls show that seniors are more skeptical of health reform plans than any other demographic, according to the Washington Post. "It's so obvious that the (health care) system we have isn't working well for too many people and that we could just be doing better," Obama said (Connolly, Washington Post, 7/29).
Obama, who answered questions posed by AARP members via telephone, said, "Everybody is trying to scare the American people" by telling them that Medicare changes proposed by Democrats would lead to rationing of care or keep patients from being able "to choose your own doctor."
He said the goal is to rein in costs, but "not by denying people care that they need, rather by changing the incentives and delivery system in health care so that people aren't paying for care that they don't need." He said that he will seek to "eliminate some of the waste" by reducing overpayments to insurers, for example (Koffler, Roll Call, 7/28).
He also denied charges that his plan would pave the way for "socialized medicine" and spoke of his support for a new public insurance plan, noting the success of Medicare (Alarkon, The Hill, 7/28). Obama said that reform would not add significantly to the federal deficit.
Of his administration's proposal to create an independent body that would oversee Medicare spending, known as the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, Obama said, "It's not a cost-containment commission," adding, "The idea is, how do you get the most value for your health care [dollar]?" (Roll Call, 7/28). He also said, "We've made a lot of progress over the last few months. We're now closer to health care reform than we ever have been before," adding, "I'm confident that we can do the right thing ... and pass health insurance reform" (Sidoti, AP/Boston Globe, 7/29).
Conservative groups have focused on a provision of the House reform bill that would provide Medicare coverage for doctors to advise patients on life-sustaining treatments and end-of-life care, which they say would lead to the rationing of care.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia."
Rep. Richard Butterfield (D-N.C.), who received calls from many of his constituents on Tuesday who expressed concern, said, "The longer we wait to vote, the more opportunity our opponents have to put out false messages," adding, "Seniors fear they will lose Medicare. They worry they will have to discuss plans for end-of-life care every five years" (Pear/Herszenhorn, New York Times, 7/29).
Some experts note that health reform plans could result in a reduction in the services available to Medicare beneficiaries.
Jack Hoadley, a research professor at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, said, "Cuts to providers, if not well-designed, can have a negative impact on seniors if it means those providers may not accept Medicare patients." However, Hoadley added that any such change will depend on how a final bill is implemented (Wall Street Journal, 7/29).
Obama is scheduled to speak about health reform in Bristol, Va., on Wednesday (Bruyn Jones, Roanoke Times, 7/29).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.