Senators focus on Medicare spending, seniors services early in debate over healthcare reform bill

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Election 2008: Long-Term Care? Huh?
Election 2008: Long-Term Care? Huh?

As Senate Democrats and Republicans began debating their healthcare bill this week, Medicare spending reductions and their effect on seniors emerged as  major topics.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) offered an amendment that would send the bill back to the Finance Committee with instructions to strip $491 billion in Medicare cuts from the current legislation. Those cuts comprise the bulk of the funding for reform. Some conservative senators argued the cuts would cause seniors to “die sooner,” and that seniors on Medicare “should be afraid of this bill.” Democrats, who have said that the cuts would not affect seniors' services, cited support for the bill from the seniors consumer group AARP, the American Medical Association and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, among other organizations.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing highlighting the ways seniors could benefit from the Senate healthcare reform bill. Among the provisions that would be of particular benefit to seniors are improved prescription drug coverage, mandated background checks for nursing home employees and annual wellness examinations, according to the panel of patient and consumer advocates.