KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Defends Reform To Seniors Worried About Medicare Cuts

On Tuesday, President Obama pitched Democrats' health reform plans to senior citizens and assured them that Medicare benefits would not be cut to pay for covering the uninsured, the New York Times reports. Meanwhile, members of Congress said they were "deluged" with constituent calls expressing concern over the future of their Medicare coverage.

The Times adds: "Speaking at a town-hall-style meeting organized by AARP, Mr. Obama said his proposals would slow the growth of health spending and avoid the need for future cuts in Medicare, the insurance program for 45 million people who are 65 and older or disabled. Democrats in Congress plan to finance about half the cost of the legislation by squeezing savings from Medicare. The White House says benefits will not be cut and beneficiaries will not be hurt" (Pear and Herszenhorn, 7/28).

Rather, "Mr. Obama said the Medicare cuts will be targeted at wasteful spending, such as overpayments to insurance companies that participate in private Medicare plans, as well as unnecessary hospital readmissions," the Wall Street Journal reports. Obama also defended a plan to reimburse doctors for helping patients plan for end-of-life care, which could help lower costs across the system. "Republicans call the proposal evidence that the government wants to interfere with personal medical decisions." Obama said it instead helps seniors make their own decisions (Adamy, 7/29).

CBS News reports "Obama said that .... As health care costs rise, Congress would have to make decisions -- based on politics -- about what to potentially cut from Medicare" (Condon, 7/28).

Meanwhile, the nation appears to be close to evenly split in its assessment of the president's policies to date, and there is great intensity on both sides of the debate with dwindling numbers in the middle, a new National Public Radio poll of registered voters finds. Nearly half, a plurality, opposed the Democratic health reform proposals moving through Congress. And while 53 percent approv of respondents approved of the president's handling of his job, a majority believed the country was heading in the wrong direction, saying their chief concern is the economy, which continues to struggle (Liasson and Elving, 7/29).

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