Monday, June 27, 2011

Democrats: Medicare Cuts on Table, Bi-Partisan Move on Medicare Fraud, Small Cuts to Medicare, House Republicans Still Under Medicare Siege, GOP War on Women

Democrats:  Medicare Cuts Open for Negotiation

The Democrat strategy that we've seen unfolding over the past week or so is becoming evident in the debt negotiations.  "Democrats laid out additional details on Friday of their plans to cut the deficit, signaling they would be willing to negotiate some Medicare cuts on the provider side as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling this summer.  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told reporters they would be willing to look at 'delivery system reform' of Medicare, which would change the way providers on the senior health care system are paid."  Of course, providers won't be happy about this.

"'There are three approaches: One is the Republican approach to end Medicare as we know it, transfer it all to insurance companies, which will not reduce costs, it will simply shift costs to beneficiaries,' Schumer said on a call with reporters.  'Second is to do nothing.  We reject both of those.'  Instead, Schumer said the Democrats will push for changes to the 'delivery side' of Medicare, such as implementing more information technology and putting more emphasis on prevention."  This clearly will test the Conservative Republican contention that the cost of Medicare is their key concern.  Unfortunately, a debt agreement looks unlikely until rhetoric is replaced with statesmanship.

Bi-Partisan Proposal on Medicare Fraud Prevention

Meanwhile, two Senators have specific ideas about halting unnecessary costs in Medicare and Medicaid:  New Bill Aims to Curb Medicare and Medicaid Fraud - Better Databases Could Stop Billions in Improper Payments.  "Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) are expected to introduce a bill today that will prevent a slew of health care scams, including stopping 'dead' doctors from placing Medicare orders.  If approved, the measure is expected to save taxpayers billions of dollars by reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in our health care system."  Few would disagree that such reform simply makes sense.

Small Steps to Lower Medicare Costs

"With the 2012 election fast coming into focus, Congress is unlikely to alter seniors' beloved Medicare in any fundamental way.  But Congress can, and should, take small but important steps now to lower the cost of the program, says Robert Berenson, a physician, health policy researcher and former Medicare official."  Read the KHN Interview: Take Small Steps Now To Lower Medicare Costs.  Among Dr. Berenson's comments, "There's plenty to do in Medicare that is not about rationing.  It's about identifying areas where the program is being abused and going after them."  Also see the brief video -- Controlling Medicare Costs.

Medicare Attacks Continue on Republicans

Democrats still are capitalizing on the unpopularity of the Ryan plan to repeal Medicare.  "Democratic House Majority PAC will take a crack at GOP Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack Friday with the release of a new ad criticizing the congressman for endorsing a Republican House proposal to dramatically alter Medicare.  The independent expenditure group's main beef with Cravaack is his support of House Budget Chair Paul Ryan's proposal that would require changes to Medicare as a method of battling the budget deficit."

For further examples of Republican trouble: "Strategists always contend that the best stance for candidates to take on a controversial issue is none at all.  That seems like particularly good advice for Republicans when it comes to the 2012 budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).  But that counsel is also rapidly becoming unrealistic as the Ryan plan, passed by the House in April, is evolving into the litmus test for Republican candidates fighting key 2012 Senate primaries in places like Florida, Missouri and New Mexico."

For a rundown of the various states, see Republican candidates squeezed on both sides over Medicare.  "The outcome of those races could help determine the shape of Congress in 2013.  On the campaign trail, conservatives are already pushing Republicans to embrace Ryan’s plan in the primaries, and so are Democrats, who hope to use the Medicare overhaul against the GOP in the general election."

Is There a GOP War on Women?

ThinkProgress says the GOP is waging a continuing war on women.  "In Congress and state legislatures across the country, Republicans have targeted public health programs for drastic spending cuts or full elimination, focusing especially on programs that benefit women the most.  ThinkProgress compiled a list of the most drastic cuts the GOP has attempted to make to women’s health programs:"  "Medicare/Medicaid: The House GOP budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) would end Medicare as we know it and turn Medicaid into a block-grant system, disproportionately hurting women.  Both programs aid more women than men, and women in general retire at lower incomes than men.  The average retired woman earns $14,000 in income each year -- $12,000 of which comes from Social Security.  Under Ryan’s plan, the average female senior would pay all of that $12,000 for Medicare coverage."


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