$716 billion Medicare cuts

Published 6:44 pm Monday, September 10, 2012

To the editor:
The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) cuts $716 billion from the cost of Medicare over 10 years. It does this mostly by making changes to provisions of the Medicare Modernization Act (Part D) passed in 2003. If you look at Medicare Advantage, hospital reimbursements and Part D as they were and will be under the Affordable Care Act, they illustrate the different ideology of Republican and Democratic administrations.
The Medicare Advantage program passed in 2003 was designed to push more Medicare recipients to the privatized portion of Medicare and off of traditional Medicare which is administered by the federal government. This is part of the republican idea that we should privatize as much as we can, including Medicare and Social Security. The fact is that to get the private insurance portion of Medicare to be able to compete with traditional Medicare, $156 billion over 10 years was added to the cost. We then paid more per Advantage enrollee just to give business to private insurance companies. The ACA eliminates this 13 percent extra payment saving $156 billion.
In hospital reimbursements, the republicans want to pay hospitals more and democrats think fees can be lower with 30 million more Americans having health insurance and hospitals serving fewer non-paying customers.  It is interesting that the largest privately owned hospital system in the country is Hospital Corporation of America. You may remember HCA paying out over $2 billion in the largest Medicare fraud settlement in US history. In 2006 HCA was taken private in a leveraged buyout by, among others, Bain Capital. Bain has since recovered its initial investment and still owns 20 percent of the once again publicly traded HCA. If Romney were to do away with Obama’s Affordable Care Act, it would restore $260 billion over 10 years in hospital reimbursement much of which would go to HCA. Anyone surprised that Romney thinks they should get paid more?
The last is Part D. The two big disappointments about Part D were that it was unpaid for and prohibited Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices. This set up the ridiculous situation where you could buy the same drugs 40 percent cheaper in Canada than here. Should it be a surprise that the republican Medicare overhaul of 2003 required full price payments for drugs and the 2010 ACA is now lowering costs by negotiating lower prices from the drug companies?
To the charge that the cuts to Medicare are used to pay for Obamacare (the ACA), it should be noted that Obamacare has lowered government spending on healthcare. The savings are being used to help provide coverage for 30 million Americans, making Medicare solvent for 9 additional years, improving healthcare for everyone and lowering the budget deficit by $143 billion over 10 years. We can do all that or go back to the corporate giveaways that Obamacare does away with.
– Jerry Hardvall, Tryon

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