A week after the chairmen of President Barack Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission released a controversial proposal to lower the nation's debt, another debt-reduction task force issued its own recommendations (PDF)—which received a little more support from America's hospitals.
New debt-reduction suggestions more appealing to hospitals
The 140-page report from the Bipartisan Policy Center's debt-reduction task force aims to reduce and stabilize the federal debt below 60% of the nation's gross domestic product by 2020 and balance the primary budget (the budget other than interest) by 2014. It also proposes to achieve $756 billion in healthcare costs, excluding interest, by that same year.
To achieve that goal, the plan listed a wide range of suggestions, including creating an incentive for employers and employees to select more cost-effective plans by capping the exclusion of employer-provided health benefits in 2018 and then phasing that out over 10 years. In the short term, the plan would control Medicare costs by gradually raising Medicare Part B premiums to 35% from 25% of total program costs over five years; updating Medicare's benefits package, including its copayment structure; and bundling Medicare's payment for post-acute care to reduce costs.
Task force members also suggested capping awards for noneconomic and punitive damages for medical malpractice; helping to reduce long-term healthcare spending to treat obesity-related illnesses by imposing an excise tax on the manufacture and importation of beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup; and making a permanent fix to the sustainable growth-rate formula.
The American Hospital Association said the proposal “rightly rejects the inclusion of further payment reductions to hospitals” that were included in the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform's report last week. But the AHA expressed concern about the Bipartisan Policy Center task force's suggestion to making bundling pilots for acute and post-acute services permanent with the requirement to produce savings.
“As we have in the past, we urge caution about moving too quickly before this concept is fully tested and understood,” the AHA said in a statement. “Improving quality and coordination of care should be the goal, not cost savings.”
Established in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, the Bipartisan Policy Center is currently co-chaired by Pete Domenici, the former Republican senator from New Mexico who served as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee; and Alice Rivlin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
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