Providers, Patients Worry About Debt Deal

Though the initial phase of the debt deal doesn't include immediate provider cuts, analysts say the next phase — the work of the 'super committee' — could make significant reductions in spending for entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. Even some elements of the health law and scientific research could be on the chopping block.

PBS Newshour: How Will Debt-Ceiling Deal Affect Medicare For Patients, Doctors?
While the initial deal doesn't include any immediate cuts to popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, health care analysts say the 12-member "super committee" charged with slashing federal spending by $1.5 trillion could make significant changes to the programs. Those changes could be wide-ranging, including an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a jump in co-pays and deductibles. State Medicaid mandates could be relaxed, achieving savings by lowering benefits to low-income individuals. Even some elements of the health care reform law could be considered. Other prime targets for Medicare could include cuts to Medigap insurance, which would limit supplemental insurance plans for the elderly, and the implementation of a policy requiring high-earning seniors to pay higher premiums for their plans. Such measures were considered by both sides of the aisle during this summer's negotiations and are likely to be on the table again (Kane, 8/4).

The Connecticut Mirror: Health Care Providers Wary As 'Super Committee' Tackles Debt
Doctors, hospitals, and others in the health care industry are deeply worried about how the agreement — in particular, a second phase of deep spending cuts to be outlined later this year — could impact their financial stability and patients' access to care ... For example, the [bipartisan fiscal] commission proposed cuts to graduate medical education funding (Shesgreen, 8/5).

Bloomberg: Alzheimer's Research Among Science Efforts At Stake In Debt Deal
Prospective government spending cuts may slow Alzheimer's disease research, stunt the careers of young scientists and prevent the U.S. from working with other nations on alternate energy, scientists and lobbyists say. If Congress doesn't approve $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas, a broad swath of federal programs will be automatically slashed, including the National Institutes of Health, which funds medical research; the National Science Foundation, which pays for basic science; and the Department of Energy, which runs national laboratories (Lopatto and Faler, 8/5). 

Politico: Health Fight Will Fire Up Main Street
As Washington's health care advocates steel for another push by Congress to rein in entitlement spending, their focus is less on K Street and more on Main Street, where a patchwork of activists stand ready to help — and for cheap. For the many nonprofit advocacies working to shield Medicare and Medicaid from cuts — as well as the activists on the other side, who are pushing to slash spending — the reliance on grass-roots activists to pressure Congress is part strategic and part financial (Dobias, 8/4). 

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