Changes To Medicare is Focus of Three Congressional
Hearings This Week
Small signs that Democrats and
Republicans are beginning to wrestle with the issue of what role
Medicare should play in deficit reduction
By Mary Agnes Carey
Feb. 25, 2013 - With $85 billion in
automatic federal spending cuts set to take effect on Friday and
predictions of economic disruption, much of official Washington is
focused on the “blame
game.” Publicly, there has been no sign that
Congress or administration officials has made any progress on averting
these cuts or finding common ground on tackling the country’s fiscal
But there are small signs that
Democrats and Republicans are beginning to wrestle with the issue of
what role Medicare should play in deficit reduction. Three Capitol Hill
committees with jurisdiction over health care have scheduled hearings
this week to examine Medicare’s current benefit design and to review
provisions in the 2010 health care law aimed at making the program more
In his State of the Union address,
President Barack Obama said the “biggest driver” of the nation’s long
term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population.
“And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must
embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs
will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize
the promise of a secure retirement for future generations,” he said.
The House Ways and Means Health
Subcommittee’s Tuesday hearing
will focus on Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service program “and
consider ideas to update and improve the benefit structure to better
meet the needs of current and future beneficiaries,” according to a news
Subcommittee chairman Kevin Brady,
R-Texas, said the hearing would help the panel “investigate the
limitations, inefficiencies and inadequacies of traditional Medicare’s
cost-sharing structure and identify ways to bring the Medicare program
in to the 21st Century.”
That hearing follows a speech
earlier this month, in which House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.,
signaled a new GOP strategy on Medicare. He called for several changes
to fee-for-service Medicare, which provides coverage to about
three-quarters of the 49 million Medicare beneficiaries.
“We should begin by ending the arbitrary division between Part A, the
hospital program, and Part B, the doctor services,” Cantor said. “We can
create reasonable and predictable levels of out-of-pocket expenses
without forcing seniors to rely on Medigap plans.”
On Thursday, Senate Finance
Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is convening a hearing to examine programs in the health law designed to make
Medicare and Medicaid more efficient and affordable. The law includes
provisions that shift payment to the quality – rather than the quantity
– of care delivered. The law also encourages hospitals and doctors to
cut readmission rates “by making sure early treatments are effective and
by reducing preventable adverse events like infections that often result
in a second, costly hospital stay,” according to a news release.
The panel will get a progress
report from Jonathan Blum, the acting principal deputy administrator and
director of the Center of Medicare, a division of the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
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