KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medicare Misperceptions Create Tougher Task For Lawmakers

The New York Times reports that public misunderstandings about the specifics of entitlement benefits make trimming Medicare spending more difficult. Meanwhile, Politico reports on an idea that might bridge the partisan divide that plagues these efforts.

The New York Times: Misperceptions Of Benefits Make Trimming Harder
President Obama had Senate Republicans nodding in agreement during a recent ice-breaking dinner as he described a basic problem for the nation's fiscal future: For each dollar that Americans pay for Medicare, they ultimately draw about $3 in benefits. What's more, he added, most people do not understand that. … [T]he president was referring to the widespread and incorrect view, especially among older Americans, that Medicare recipients get only what they have paid for through taxes, premiums and medical co-payments. Now that misperception is making it all the harder for politicians to consider trimming those benefits or raising out-of-pocket expenses as they seek to restrain Medicare spending that is rising unsustainably while baby boomers age and medical prices increase (Calmes, 4/3).

Politico: Medicare Buy-In A Budget Solution?
To get to a budget deal, could Washington buy in to a Medicare buy-in? That's the question left hanging by a recent Urban Institute paper which maps out one path to bridge the partisan divide over Republican demands that the eligibility age for Medicare be adjusted upward from 65 to 67 so as to conform with Social Security (Rogers, 4/3).

Also in the news, tangible impacts of budget sequester -

The Washington Post's WonkBlog: Cancer Clinics Are Turning Away Thousands Of Medicare Patients. Blame The Sequester.
Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts. Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them (Kliff, 4/3).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Medicare Sequestration Cuts Begin, Pain Yet To Come
When the budget axe swung Monday, hospitals, doctors, insurers, prescription drug plans, graduate medical education and other health care providers were on the chopping block. Providers that offer Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans and Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) plans felt the effect of the cuts immediately. Medicare pays these providers on the first business day of every month to operate for the coming month. But a majority of health care providers won’t feel the pain until weeks, even months, after the budget cuts technically go into effect (Sjoerdsma, 4/4).

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