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Berwick: Surer footing for Medicare

The Washington Post, September 3, 2010

Former health and human services secretary Michael Leavitt was incorrect in calling the Affordable Care Act's Medicare reforms an "illusion" ["The wrong prescription for Medicare," Washington Forum, Aug. 27]. It's no illusion to the seniors and people with disabilities who will pay less for prescription drugs, to the millions of Medicare beneficiaries who will have preventive care and check-ups covered without paying co-pays, or to the people who will be protected from fraud and abuse. Under the act, Medicare is stronger than it has been in years, and seniors will get new benefits. That's no illusion; that's progress.

The Medicare Board of Trustees estimated last month that the Affordable Care Act produces savings that extend the life of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund for 12 years, to 2029. The actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an independent office, reached the same conclusion. And the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the law will reduce the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years and more than $1 trillion in the following decade. Those are real savings that help today's and tomorrow's Medicare beneficiaries.

Some, including Leavitt, have claimed that these savings are "double counted." This argument is inaccurate and oversimplifies what is really going on.