Enacting Medicare cuts in name of healthcare reform is reckless, irresponsible

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This healthcare reform debate is swirling faster than a Tilt-A-Whirl at an amusement park. It has been swinging from a move toward the removal of a public option to reports of senators still bogged down in talks to news of a possible vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee this afternoon.

Then again, all of this is subject to change. It’s enough to make your head spin.

As the ride turns faster, and Congress furiously works to find a compromise before its recess begins next week, lawmakers risk throwing some valuable elements of reform off-board. (The problem with roller coaster-type rides is that at the end you have lost your hat, your map and the loose change in your pocket.)

Among those valuables are Medicare dollars. There has been talk that a bipartisan group of senators has tentatively agreed to form an independent commission that would cut $35 billion from Medicare over 10 years.

Hold up. This would be where I’d stop the ride—at risk of injuring someone. This does not sound like a reasonable or responsible solution.

Slashing $35 billion from Medicare? The program seniors rely on for their healthcare? I thought the purpose of healthcare reform was to expand healthcare, not take it away.

And then there is that little subject of long-term care. It is widely known that nursing homes count on Medicare to compensate for inadequate Medicaid payments. Where will facilities turn if they lose this major revenue stream? Unless Congress is willing to broach the challenges regarding Medicaid, I don’t think it has the right to start cutting into nursing homes’ other major funding source. (For more on this subject, see this week's Guest Column. Click here.)

For now, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats has taken control of reform discussions. They want to narrow the spending on this healthcare reform bill. That I can understand. But our lawmakers better be careful. Few constituencies are as capable of angry wrath as seniors who feel they’ve been wronged. Just ask former Illinois congressman Dan Rostenkowski.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.