Members of the Healthcare Leadership Council—which includes top executives from Pfizer Inc., Aetna Inc. and the Mayo Clinic-are expected to approve a proposal that would call for raising Medicare’s eligibility age and shifting the program toward private plans for beneficiaries. The group plans to press members of the congressional “supercommittee,” charged with finding $1.2 trillion in budget savings, to include the changes in its broader cost-cutting plan.
The council’s proposal is part of a larger effort inside the health industry to overhaul how lawmakers achieve savings from federal health programs. For years, Congress largely has relied on slicing payments to doctors and hospitals that treat Medicare beneficiaries to shrink spending in the program that insures 48 million elderly and disabled Americans.
Frustrated at being the target, the health industry is pushing back, arguing that some of those savings should come directly from the pockets of Medicare beneficiaries.
“This thinking that we’re protecting beneficiaries because we’re only cutting providers—that’s mythical,” said Mary Grealy, the council’s president. “At some point it does affect beneficiaries,” she said, because such cuts weaken health-care providers’ ability to offer services.
There’s growing pressure in Washington to rein in the major health-care entitlement programs—Medicare and Medicaid—as lawmakers struggle to cut the federal budget deficit.
Industry Seeks Savings from Medicare beneficiaries, The Wall Street Journal – Print and Online September 13, 2011