Consensus Stirs for Medicare Reform

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , June 27, 2013

A U.S. House subcommittee's review of proposals to improve the Medicare program focuses on three suggestions, but simultaneously restructuring the benefit design, maintaining the average value of benefits, and producing Medicare savings will not be simple.

The debate over how to modernize and improve the fee-for-service Medicare program continued Wednesday on Capitol Hill as the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health met with a panel of health policy researchers to review a number of proposals.

Medicare reform has been a front burner issue for several House and Senate committees as Congress grapples with making the tough decisions necessary to preserve the future of the almost 50-year-old program, which faces insolvency in 2026.

In a series of opening statements, representatives from both sides of the aisle presented a laundry list of concerns, including Medicare's complex benefit design, the impact of program changes on the vulnerable population of Medicare beneficiaries, and the effectiveness of cost-sharing in encouraging beneficiaries to seek high-value care.

The witnesses were Patricia Neuman, ScD, director of the Program on Medicare Policy and senior vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation; Katherine Baicker, PhD, a professor of health economics at the Harvard School of Public Health; and Thomas P. Miller, JD, a resident fellow in health policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute.

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