White House rejects claims that proposed Medicare cuts would hurt care for seniors

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President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

A recent report has rekindled some of the controversy surrounding proposed cuts to Medicare under current healthcare reform proposals. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Saturday released an analysis that suggests nursing homes and hospitals would no longer accept Medicare patients if healthcare reform passes.

Under the version of healthcare reform approved last week by the House, Medicare would be cut by roughly $500 billion over the next decade. The spending reductions would largely come from reduced waste and fraud and a reduction in reimbursements for Medicare Advantage plans, and would not negatively affect services to seniors, according to President Obama.

But the CMS report suggests that the cuts would be so severe that hospitals and nursing homes would stop accepting Medicare all together, and that millions of seniors would see sharply reduced benefits. Republicans, who commissioned the CMS report, say the analysis shows an eventual overall increase in healthcare spending of $289 billion under the House plan.

The White House has pushed back against the report. Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, on Sunday categorized the report as speculative, and said the cuts need to be viewed in context. The healthcare industry would receive billions of dollars through increases to the number of insured Americans. Also, many of those who are decrying the cuts approved of them while they were at the negotiating table, she said. She also pointed out that the 1997 Balanced Budget Act called for even larger cuts to Medicare and there was not a large disruption of services to beneficiaries.