Provider groups remain vigilant on entitlement spending as Obama signs debt ceiling legislation

Share this content:
Cheryl Phillips, SVP of advocacy, LeadingAge
Cheryl Phillips, SVP of advocacy, LeadingAge

A bipartisan Congressional committee will be tasked with reforming entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, as part of a federal debt limit deal signed yesterday by President Obama.

This 12-member committee — which has drawn comparisons to the Affordable Care Act's controversial independent payment advisory board — has broad oversight over Medicare and Medicaid spending. It is charged with trimming federal budget deficits by a total of at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Critics from both parties are skeptical that such a committee can recommend changes to the complicated formulas used to reimburse nursing homes, hospitals and other healthcare providers. Possible changes could include raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67, as proposed in a plan by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), or cutting Medicare prescription drug payments, which the White House says could save $200 billion over 10 years.

Cheryl Phillips, M.D., LeadingAge's senior vice president for advocacy, told McKnight's that LeadingAge is pleased that the debt ceiling agreement does not appear to target the CLASS Act as a means of deficit reduction, unlike the previous Gang of Six proposal.

“We're concerned about a number of areas. Our most important work is to watch how things unfold in the coming days and weeks,” Phillips said. “Our advocacy mission to our members is to meet with members in their home districts and remind them of the importance of protecting safety net programs.” She added that the organization is anxious to learn which members of Congress will be on the commission.

In response to the passage of debt ceiling legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker said Tuesday that the newly created budget deficit commission must avoid hasty decisions that could lead to irreversible changes to Medicare and Medicaid.

“In order to offset the need for deep cuts to these programs, any bipartisan committee proposal must raise revenues by eliminating tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and corporations,” Baker said.