KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Many Seniors Worry Health Reform Could Hurt Instead Of Help

"Democrats have a senior citizen problem," Politico reports. "Frustrated older Americans are packing the town halls on health care. They are incredibly passionate about their Medicare benefits. Polls show senior citizens largely disapprove of health care reform ideas so far. And of course, they vote - in larger numbers than any other demographic." For the most part, Democrats have focused on appealing to middle-class Americans and the uninsured, but at his New Hampshire town hall meeting on Tuesday, "President Barack Obama made a point to reach out to seniors, noting the low support in polls for his health care proposals." He told them "we're not talking about cutting Medicare benefits." There is, however, talk of "finding hundreds of billions in savings from Medicare - cuts supporters say will trim fat from the program - including slashing $156 billion in subsidies to Medicare Advantage, a privately-administered Medicare program."

"A July 31 Gallup poll found that just 20 percent of Americans aged 65 and older believe health care reform would improve their own situation, noticeably lower than the 27 percent of 18- to 49-year-olds and 26 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds who say the same. The senior citizen problem could pose a serious problem for the 2010 election cycle." Beyond those statistics, "look at the faces at these chaotic congressional town hall events across the country. They are the faces of older Americans who paid into Medicare most of their working lives and are now enjoying the health care benefits they believe they've earned." Cuts to Medicare Advantage are a real possibility, but "Democrats are also fighting full-blown myths that have gained traction, attacks claiming that reform would create government 'death panels' authorizing euthanasia" (Frates and McGrane, 8/12).

The Los Angeles Times: "Members of Congress have reported an outpouring of concern from their senior constituents. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) said his offices had received 'hundreds of calls' from older people eager to understand how they might be affected." Many seniors wonder how it is possible to cut from Medicare without affecting their health care, and "the proposed creation of a center to study the effectiveness of medical treatments has prompted some critics to allege that results would be used to discourage or deny care not deemed effective. Supporters have said the research would help doctors and patients make better decisions" (Graham and Hook, 8/12).

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