December 11, 2009

December 11: Health Care Reform News

By Kelley Luckstein








Gazette Opinion: Insurance expansion won’t work without payment reform

While Democrats in the U.S. Senate strive to strike a health insurance coverage compromise that will garner 60 votes, they must not ignore the other huge failing of our care system: its failure to consistently deliver quality care despite high costs. This is why the idea of opening Medicare to Americans ages 55 to 64 drew quick criticism from the Mayo Clinic Policy Center. As the center’s director, Jeff Korsmo, said, Medicare already is financially unsustainable serving its 65-plus and younger disabled enrollees.


Legislation already includes a boost in the Medicare payroll tax (that all workers and employers pay) to bolster the Part A hospital fund that otherwise is projected to go broke in 2017. Growing costs of Medicare Part B (doctor services) and Part D (prescriptions) add annually to federal deficits.


Billings Gazette, 12/10/09




Medicare “Buy-In” Worse Than Public Option

The Wall Street Journal

December 11, 2009


It's hard to imagine a better illustration of the panic and recklessness stringing ObamaCare along in the Senate than the putative deal that Harry Reid announced this week. Reid claims a Medicare "buy-in" for people from ages 55 to 64 has overcome the liberal-moderate impasse over the public option - if anything, this gambit is an even faster road to government-run health care.


High Premiums in Senate Democrats Health Plan

The New York Times

December 11, 2009


Senate Democrats have provided few details about their latest health care proposal, but this much seems clear: Anyone who wants to buy the same health benefits as members of Congress, or to buy coverage through Medicare, should be prepared to fork over a large chunk of cash.


R.I.P Public Option

The Huffington Post

December 11, 2009


The public health insurance option died on Thursday, December 10, 2009.


Health Care Loophole Would Allow Coverage Limits

The Boston Globe

December 11, 2009


A loophole in the Senate health care bill would now let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses, such as cancer.




Of OPM Role in a Reformed Health Care System, Some are Fans, Some are Definitely Not

The Washington Post

December 11, 2009

Like a backup singer finally getting the spotlight, the Office of Personnel Management (an agency that only federal employees and their kin have reason to know) is moving to center stage in the nation’s health insurance system debate.



Health Workers Are Most Trusted Profession:  Accept for HMO Managers


December 11, 2009


Gallup’s annual Honest and Ethics of Professions poll is out and finds that health providers and front-line health workers rank highest in the nation.




Swine Flu Death Toll at 10,000 since April

The New York Times

December 11, 2009


Federal health officials said Thursday that almost 10,000 people have died of the swine flu since April, a significant jump from mortality numbers released last month.




Snowe:  Medicare Buy-In Loses Her Vote


December 10, 2009


Sen. Olympia Snowe does not support the Medicare buy-in because it would “aggravate an already-serious problem” with the program – the low reimbursement rates for hospitals and doctors.


Pelosi Backs Medicare Buy-In Plan in Senate Health Care Deal

The Washington Post

December 11, 2009


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed a proposal Thursday that would allow people in late middle age to buy insurance through Medicare, helping to sustain an idea that sprang unexpectedly from the Senate this week.


Additional Coverage:

Pelosi Indicates Support for Senate’s Medicare Deal - The Wall Street Journal


Moderates Uneasy With Medicare Plan


December 11, 2009


Senate moderates who are the linchpin to passing a health care reform bill raised fresh worries Thursday about a proposed Medicare expansion, complicating Majority Leader Reid’s hopes of putting together a filibuster-proof majority for the legislation in the coming days




Health Care Help from the Rookies

The Washington Post Op-Ed

December 11, 2009


Finally, there is some good news on the health care front:  The headlines went to a possible compromise on the contentious issue of the public option, but the greater victory may lie in less-publicized Senate action that might actually cut the costs of our impossibly expensive health care system.


Senate Looks for Possible Compromises on Public Option

Healthleaders Media

December 11, 2009


Overall, Thursday failed to bring a clearer picture of the exact plan that the Democrats have in mind—whether the public option is being dropped completely or whether some new proposals are gaining acceptance among most of the senators


Health Leaders Speak Out About MedPAC’s Proposed Lower Payments for 2010

Healthleaders Media

December 11, 2009


A draft recommendation to Congress released by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) Thursday has hospital officials concerned about payments for the year.


AARP Draws Political Fire

The Washington Examiner

December 11, 2009


AARP, with 40 million members, is drawing political fire for its support of Democratic health care legislation increasing regulation of the industry and cutting Medicare benefits.


Health Care Debate:  Hope and Skepticism on the Front Lines

USA Today

December 11, 2009


The men and women at the front lines of the national health care debate, who run hospitals, nursing homes, community health care centers and private practices, say they are hopeful, but wary, about the changes that might follow if Congress passes legislation to overhaul the health care system.


Internet Users Lured to Voice Views on Health Bill

The Associated Press

December 11, 2009


Internet users looking for gift cards and other free merchandise are being steered to Web pages inviting them to send e-mails to Congress expressing their views on President Barack Obama's push to reshape the country's health system.




Senate Health Debate Hits Snag Over Imported Drugs

The Los Angeles Times

December 11, 2009


Expanding access to low-cost prescription drugs from overseas might look like a sure winner in the effort to make health care more affordable, but the seemingly popular proposal brought the Senate health care debate to a standstill Thursday, as Democrats divided over whether they should bow to the drug industry's fierce opposition.


Additional Coverage:

Pharmaceutical Deal Holding Up Bipartisan Health Amendment - The Hill




HHS Unveils New Web Projects under Open Government Effort

iHealth Beat

December 10, 2009


In response to President Obama's new open government initiative, HHS plans to launch three new initiatives aimed at improving information sharing, project collaboration and public health awareness.




Urge Your Senators to Reject Medicare Expansion as Part of the Public Option 

AHA Advocacy Alert (Full Memo Below)

December 11, 2009


As the Senate debates its health reform bill, we have issued Advocacy Alerts urging opposition to attempts to expand Medicare and Medicaid eligibility as part of a public insurance option (Dec. 8), as well as attempts to expand the authority of an Independent Medicare Advisory Board to impose additional hospital payment cuts (Dec. 3); and on our three overriding concerns with the Senate bill (Nov. 23), including: 

  • The number of people who would receive coverage under the bill must be increased, or the hospital payment reductions be lowered.
  • The hospital readmissions policy must be narrowed to address only truly avoidable readmissions.
  • The public option, as currently included in the Senate bill, should be dropped in favor of a non-governmental, non-profit co-op approach.

As we have indicated, we expect problematic amendments to continue to be offered and we will need your continued help to defeat them.

Today’s action: The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) today reported that hospitals’ Medicare margins dropped from negative 6 percent in 2007 to an historic low of negative 7.2 percent in 2008. 

This report reinforces our concerns with the Senate’s proposed Medicare expansion as part of the public option, which would allow individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into the program.  In a statement today, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said, “For the majority of America’s hospitals, Medicare payments cover less than the cost of care for hospital services to seniors, making it more difficult to make ends meet.  The Medicare buy-in could hamper hospitals’ ability to maintain the essential public services that patients and communities depend upon and to upgrade technology and facilities that make care better." 


Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) told the Washington Post that the Medicare expansion proposal “would be the largest expansion of Medicare in 44 years … and would perhaps get us on the path to a single-payer model.”  He then called the expansion “the mother of all public options.” 


Please continue to contact your senators and urge them to reject the expansion of Medicare in health reform negotiations.  Utilize today’s MedPAC findings to bolster that view.  The Senate proposal would add millions of people to Medicare at a time when the program already significantly underfunds hospitals.  Health reform efforts need to bolster hospitals' efforts, not undermine them.



We need your help to ensure that these issues are addressed in a way that helps you take care of patients and serve your community.


Please click here to send an immediate e-mail message to your senators.
 Depending on your relationship with your senators, please call them personally – or their chief of staff or legislative assistant that handles health care issues – and convey the messages outlined above. 


Tags: health care reform, Health Policy, Health Policy

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