KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Republicans Fight To Spare Medicare From Cuts, Dems Confront Overhaul’s Affordability Issues

Republicans, have switched sides, and now accuse Democrats of trying to cut Medicare. Meanwhile, Dems are vexed by the affordability issue.

The Washington Post: For Republicans "(i)t's a lonely battle. The hospital associations, AARP and other powerful interest groups that usually howl over Medicare cuts have also switched sides. Last week, they stood silent as the Senate Finance Committee debated a plan to slice more than $400 billion over the next decade from Medicare, the revered federal insurance program for people over 65, and Medicaid, which also serves many seniors."

"Cutting Medicare does not necessarily mean reducing spending but rather slowing its rate of growth. Such efforts are usually aimed at reducing the federal budget deficit. Spending is cut, and, from the perspective of doctors, hospitals and other providers, the cash disappears. This time the cuts would finance a vast expansion of coverage for the uninsured, creating a new pool of nearly 30 million customers. Earlier this year, industry groups agreed in talks with the White House to forgo billions in Medicare and Medicaid payments to help cover the cost of reform" (Montgomery, 9/28).

The New York Times on Democrats and the middle class: "The affordability question vexing Democrats is whether those with moderate income will be able to afford health insurance, even with the subsidies the legislation would provide and all sorts of new rules aimed at controlling costs." The pending Democratic-backed legislation "would require nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance,' making affordability is "a potentially serious political issue. That is particularly so because most people would incur a financial penalty ... if they did not obtain coverage." If more people are spared from the penalty, it could increase the projected number of uninsured. "But White House officials think the number of people willing to risk going uninsured would not rise by much, perhaps two million people" (Herszenhorn, 9/27).

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