Weekly Columns

New Health Care Challenges Coming With New Year

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Washington, October 25, 2012 | comments

As 2012 comes to a close, we face many challenges: averting the fiscal cliff that could send us spiraling back into a recession, tackling our crippling deficit and the dire need to balance our budget. But equally worrisome are the sweeping changes coming to our health care system in the new year.

These changes include: more premium increases, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) starting to look for ways to cut Medicare, payment cuts to physicians, and the cuts to Medicare required by the President’s so-called Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for the average family in 2012 rose by more than 4 percent—an increase of nearly $700. This increase is due, in part, to the ACA, and breaks a promise made by the president to lower premiums for families by $2,500.

Next, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)—an unaccountable new bureaucracy that can effectively ration Medicare services—will become fully operational. On April 30, 2013, Medicare’s Chief Actuary will make a determination as to whether Medicare spending will exceed an arbitrary target set by formula. In the event that spending grows faster than the target, the IPAB can propose spending reductions within Medicare that can go into effect without Congressional approval or judicial review. I believe this could ultimately lead to beneficiaries being denied certain procedures because the IPAB deems them as too expensive.

Another concern with Medicare is potential cuts in physician payments. Under Medicare’s outdated Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) reimbursement formula, physicians are scheduled to receive a 27% cut in payments on January 1, 2013. If this cut goes into effect, seniors will find it harder to access needed medical care. Already, one in ten physicians are not currently accepting new Medicare patients.

Lastly, the ACA took more than $700 billion from Medicare to help pay for a new entitlement program and an expansion of Medicaid. This undoubtedly will take care away from seniors who desperately need it, and I don’t think seniors should be forced to give this up. In addition to the cuts included in the Affordable Care Act, a 2% across-the-board cut to Medicare is on the horizon because of sequestration, so it’s imperative we act soon. 

Health care reform is too important to get wrong again, and I believe we can work together to promote health care policies that will lower costs, improve quality and expand access to care. We must address these important health care issues to ensure our children and grandchildren have the best health care system in the world and our seniors’ needs aren’t ignored. You can rest assured I will continue to look for opportunities to work in a bipartisan way to reform our nation’s health care system, protect our seniors and ensure American families have reasonable premiums that they can afford. 

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