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Debt panel eyes dual Medicare/Medicaid patients

Reuters, September 28, 2011

Government health benefits for some 9 million of the sickest and poorest U.S. citizens will come under scrutiny from the congressional "super committee" seeking to cut the nation's debt. Medicare and Medicaid spend about $300 billion a year for dual-eligibles, about half of whom are under treatment for five or more chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. While tackling either Medicare or Medicaid has proved politically unpopular, the higher proportion of cost for dual-eligibles, and their status may make them an easier segment for the two parties to agree on. "If they do anything in the super committee, it seems to me this is ... such an obvious area," said William Hoagland, a former Republican aide for the Senate Budget Committee who is now with the health insurer CIGNA Corp.