Obama’s proposed budget would affect seniors’ care

Hospitals and post-acute care providers, Medicare drug providers, and older adults could see substantial changes in payments and benefits if President Obama’s 2015 fiscal year budget proposal is passed as presented.

The president’s $3.9 trillion plan includes more than $400 billion in cuts over the next decade in Medicare and Medicaid spending, as well as changes in provider reimbursement to place greater emphasis on quality. As Politico reported, additional savings would come from higher premiums of wealthier beneficiaries, changes in Medicare Part D payments to drug companies, and reimbursement cuts to post-acute providers like skilled nursing facilities and home health care agencies.

AARP criticized the proposal for “simply cost shifting.”

“We know that brand name prescription drugs are one of the key drivers of escalating health care costs, so we appreciate the President’s inclusion of proposals to find savings in lower drug costs, said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy A. LeaMond in a statement. “But instead of shifting additional costs onto Medicare beneficiaries, we must look for savings throughout the entire health care system, as the rising cost of health care threatens people of all ages.”

Home health care leaders also expressed concern in response to proposals to cut Medicare funding for home health services and re-impose a copayment on Medicare home health beneficiaries. Leaders warn that such policies will disproportionately impact women and the seniors who are documented as being older, poorer, sicker and more likely to be female and minorities than all other Medicare beneficiaries.

The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, a coalition of home health providers focused on program integrity, quality, and efficiency reforms, also released a statement saying its members strongly oppose against further cuts to Medicare home health funding and the re-imposition of a copayment on Medicare home health beneficiaries. Instead, the It’s urging “adoption of targeted program integrity, value-based purchasing and post-acute care bundling reforms that would not impact vulnerable beneficiaries or their access to care.”

Rich Umbdenstock, president and chief executive officer of the American Hospital Association, said the budget ignores changes hospitals are implementing. “The president’s budget proposes additional cuts in funding for hospital services provided to the poor, elderly and disabled under the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Today’s budget proposal includes some problematic policies that would undermine the ability of hospitals to improve the health care system and, ultimately, puts access to services at risk for the patients and communities we serve.”

You can watch a video of the President taking questions about the budget from reporters at Tuesday’s White House press briefing.

For more specifics on how the budget proposal would impact Medicare, check out this article by AHCJ member Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News, and this Modern Healthcare story on potential cuts to other health services.

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