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Dueling Healthcare Proposals Submitted to Super Committee

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, October 19, 2011

House Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which includes healthcare, think it would be premature for the committee to eliminate the ACA. They don’t assign dollar amounts to the bill, but they do tug at the heart strings, noting that “many of the proposals to reduce spending would undermine programs essential to the health and financial security of lower-income and middle-class families.”

Medicare

Republicans want the eligibility age addressed. They note that in 1965, average life expectancy was 70 years and there were five workers paying the benefits for each retiree. Today life expectancy is 79 years, Medicare spending has increased 13-fold, and only three workers pay the benefits for each retiree. Republicans want more cost-sharing, especially for high-income seniors.

Democrats contend that raising the Medicare eligibility age will lead to higher overall health spending. They see the prescription drugs and uncoordinated care as cost drivers for Medicare and have asked the super committee to focus on those areas. They also want the government to reinstitute the rebate that drug manufacturers used to pay in return for the large volume of patients they access through Medicare. They note that cost-sharing does nothing to control healthcare costs.

Medicaid

For Republicans, Medicaid is a significant cost driver that currently consumes 22% of state budgets. They want the super committee to revamp Medicaid by giving states more leeway to change the benefits offered and the program’s financing. Democrats want no part of blended rates or anything that threatens the federal dollars that flow to the states in support of Medicaid.

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