Debt-Ceiling Agreement May Impact Seniors, Disabled Relying On Medicare.

The Wall Street Journal (8/3, Adamy, Subscription Publication) reports that the debt ceiling agreement reached by Congress may impact older Americans and those with disabilities who are reliant on Medicare. Policy and industry experts contend that Sunday’s deal may give rise to further discussions in which legislators may consider both means testing and raising the eligibility age for Medicare. In addition, one deal provision, which would allow reimbursement cuts to clinicians treating Medicare patients, might result in hospitals eliminating services. Finally, the deal’s fallback spending-cut provision includes Medicare cuts capped at 2% that would impact healthcare professionals, not the patients themselves, cuts that some medical groups say they cannot take without seriously affecting patients.
The Los Angeles Times (8/3, Levey, Cloud) reports, “Washington policymakers demanded more savings from hospitals, doctors and other medical providers in the debt deal President Obama signed Tuesday, a move designed to protect seniors and others who rely on Medicare.” Should Congress “not come up with a plan by the end of the year to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, the [debt ceiling] plan requires the federal government to impose a 2% across-the-board reduction in payments to Medicare providers starting in 2013.” Now, “advocates for the elderly say the Medicare cuts, though relatively small, could force medical providers to scale back services, or even stop serving them entirely.”
Raising Medicare Age May Undermine Health Reform Law, Experts Say. The Washington Post (8/2, Kliff) reported in the “Ezra Klein” blog, “One key consequence of the debt ceiling debate — raising Medicare eligibility to 67 — emerged from the battle an increasingly acceptable policy proposal.” This particular “policy, long opposed by Democrats, is being considered because of the Affordable Care Act: Those no longer eligible for Medicare, the thinking goes, could enroll in the new health insurance exchanges, where they would have premium subsidies and consumer protections.” But, according to some healthcare experts, even “though health-care reform makes raising the Medicare age more palatable, actually doing so undermines the law by causing premiums to rise on the exchanges as millions of older and sicker Americans flood into the new marketplace.”

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