Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) at a hearing accused the Bush administration of taking a meat ax to Medicare by proposing $183 billion in cuts to the program over the next five years.
Hacking apart the Medicare and Medicaid programs wont solve the problem of rising healthcare costs, Baucus told HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who testified before the panel. The presidents fiscal 2009 budget proposal also includes a $17 billion reduction to Medicaid over the next five years.
In particular, Baucus criticized the administration for proposing to cut payments to hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, hospice and home healthcare, while ignoring the overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans. Leavitt said that the budget request represents proposed savings, not cuts, to the entitlement programs, and that the ultimate purpose is to slow the rate of growth and reduce premiums to Medicare beneficiaries by $6.2 billion over the next five years.
Finance committee members also criticized the presidents proposal to fund the State Childrens Health Insurance Program at an additional $19 billion above the current baseline of $25 billion over five years, although Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panels ranking member, said he thought it was an improvement over the administrations previous proposals to fund SCHIP. If the president had offered this proposal a year ago, it could have made a real difference in negotiations to reauthorize the program, Grassley said. The Bush administration had previously held that an additional $5 billion above the current baseline would be sufficient. -- by Jennifer Lubell
What do you think? Post a comment on this article and share your opinion with other readers. Submit your letter to Modern Physician Online at [email protected]. Please be sure to include your hometown and state, along with your organization and title.