Tag Archives: budget

Obama’s proposed budget would affect seniors’ care

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

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.” Continue reading

Report on how the federal shutdown affects older adults

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

This week’s shutdown of the federal government has some very real and immediate impacts on the nation’s older adults. Money funneled through the Older Americans Act for meals, caregivers, legal help, and family caregiver training will soon dry up, according to a report in the Eureka (Calif.) Times-Standard.

Other programs, like energy assistance for low-income families, which help pay heating bills, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which provides cash to the impoverished, and Social Services Block grants, which help states fund initiatives like elder abuse programs and senior services, will be hit hard if the impasse continues for any length of time.

Money for many of these programs ran out at midnight on Sept. 30; because they are either discretionary, or require re-authorization, they’re at a standstill until an appropriations bill is passed. Some local programs which rely on partial federal funding for vital senior services like Meals on Wheels  face the daunting prospect of temporarily halting operations. However, spokespersons for other organizations say they’re OK for now. Continue reading

AHCJ joins objections to proposed cuts to federal transparency websites

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

All eyes are on the federal budget negotiations today, with most attention focused on whether or not an impasse will lead to a government shutdown. But thousands of people have expressed concern over proposed budget reductions to a number of data transparency and government accountability programs.

The Sunlight Foundation says, “The budget for Data.gov,USASpending.gov, the IT Dashboard, and other data transparency and government accountability programs funded through the Electronic Government Fund would be slashed from $34 million to $2 million if the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act passed by the House or considered by the Senate became law.”

The Association of Health Care Journalists has added its name to a letter organized by the Sunlight Foundation objecting to the proposed cuts and asking that Congress sustain funding for the programs.

Those interested in signing the letter or otherwise contacting congressional representatives to weigh in on the topic can visit the Sunlight Foundation’s page.
Public Letter: Save Online Transparency Programs (updated 4/2/2011)

NPR series follows the money on health reform

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A new NPR series, Dollar Politics, looks to, both figuratively and literally, turn the camera away from the politicians up on stage and train it on the army of lobbyists and special interest representatives that has descended upon the city.

Between 1998 and 2008, the number of registered lobbyists on health care more than doubled, to 3,627, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The statistic doesn’t include players who don’t engage in lobbying as defined by federal law — among them, grass-roots organizers, producers of TV campaigns and former members of Congress who remain in Washington as senior advisers to corporate clients.

Spending on lobbying jumped even higher over the past decade. Organizations lobbying on health care spent $484.4 million in 2008, more than two and a half times the spending in 1998.

In addition to looking at where the money is coming from and why its being spent, NPR reporters Peter Overby and Andrea Seabrook also considered the effects of this massive cash infusion, writing that with so many interests pushing and pulling on every decision, gridlock may set in. As the series goes on, they hope to track even more of the money and connect the lobbying dots.

OMB director testifies about health care reform

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

C-SPAN is streaming testimony by Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, before the Senate Finance Committee about health care reform measures in the budget proposal.

He has told the Committee that Congress will be expected to fill in many of the details when it comes to health care reform.

Orszag  has included notes about the budget on his blog.

UPDATE: Testimony has concluded and here is the archived webcast.

NEJM weighs in on Obama’s budget plan

In a rather measured Perspective piece by correspondent John K. Iglehart, the New England Journal of Medicine expresses admiration for President Barack Obama and his commitment to health reform. At the same time, however, the closely read periodical also admits to some doubt that Obama can make an appreciable dent in health care spending, at least to the extent that is needed.

You may recall Obama last week released a $3.6 trillion proposal that challenges Congress to commit a “down payment” of $630 billion over the next decade to finance health care reform. The NEJM reminds us that this adds “substantially” to the $150 billion in health-related revenues from the economic stimulus package he signed into law last month.

“In addressing the vast medical economy, Obama has proposed a grand bargain to the American people and the disparate array of private interests engaged in health care. The administration has assured the populace, providers and its political allies that it is serious about pursuing reform and expanding coverage.

Oh, but those hurdles. As the NEJM notes, this will require reductions, totaling $318 billion over 10 years, in Medicare and Medicaid payments to health plans, drug makers, hospitals, and home health care providers. Where will the rest come from? Raising taxes for Americans in the highest tax brackets. And even then, it will be far from enough.

“Though strident in its language,” the NEJM writes, ” the budget proposal includes only a sliver of the savings required to slow the growth of health care costs to anything close to the rate of growth for non-medical goods and services. Very little in the history of modern Congress suggests that legislators have the stomach to retrench a sector that is such a large part of the economy, particularly one with an impressive record of creating jobs.

“Carrying it off in normal times would take much of the political capital of any president, and this is only one of countless challenges faced by the new administration. On the other hand, Obama pulled off a historic victory last November; perhaps he will prove capable of bending the cost curve and achieving health care reform as well.”

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Covering health reform and Obama’s proposed budget