Talking Health

Past episodes of Talking Health

Covering the Underinsured (July 2008)

Political Promises (Nov. 2008)

Health Insurance (May 1, 2009)

Health reform coverage: The key issues (Sept. 2009)

Press release: Webcast series for health journalists debuts

Talking Health: What's ahead for Medicare

Launch in external player

PC users: Get the latest Windows Media Player
Mac users: Get Windows Media Components
for QuickTime by Flip4Mac

This Talking Health webcast proved timely as a proposal emerged from Congress on Tuesday night would drop the so-called "public option" in health care reform and instead expand Medicare to cover people beginning at age 55.

In the reform debate many have cited Medicare as an example of a successful plan with generally satisfied users. In the webcast, expert panelists and journalists explored how Medicare works, its successes and failures and what could happen in the future.

To report on the current proposal, journalists should understand how much out-of-pocket expenses affect Medicare users. According to panelist and health writer Michelle Andrews, many go without care, skip taking pills, avoid screenings and preventative care. Panelist Bruce Vladeck also poked holes in the "urban myth" that many doctors don't take Medicare patients. John Rother discussed the future of payments to primary care physicians. The panel also explained the "doughnut hole" and how it is expected to be alleviated in the future.

Our panel discussed these issues and more with an eye toward what journalists need to know to best inform their readers and viewers. In addition, the Commonwealth Fund has compiled a resource page of its research on the topic that includes a fact sheet analyzing a Congressional bill for early Medicare buy-in, a survey of health care opinion leaders on Medicare reform, and Fund-supported articles from the Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine and Annals of Internal Medicine analyzing the potential effect of early Medicare buy-in on health care costs.

Webcast speakers

Michelle Andrews is a New York-based freelance writer who writes about health care for The New York Times, CBS and Money. She has been a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and SmartMoney magazine.

Trudy Lieberman is the director of the health and medicine reporting program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She is a contributing editor for Columbia Journalism Review, a contributor to The Nation and the author of several books. She has won numerous awards for her reporting including two National Magazine Awards. She also was a Fulbright Scholar to Japan and a John J. McCloy fellow to Germany to study health care in those countries. She is the immediate past president of the AHCJ board of directors.

John Rother is the executive vice president of policy and strategy for AARP. Prior to coming to AARP in 1984, Rother served eight years with the U.S. Senate as special counsel for labor and health to former Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), then as staff director and chief counsel for the Special Committee on Aging under its chairman, Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.). He serves on several boards and commissions, including as the chair of Generations United, and vice-chair of the National Quality Forum. He also serves on the boards of Pension Rights Center, the Alliance for Healthcare Reform and advisory Boards to Kaiser Permanente, Google and several Congressional fellowships. Rother is an honors graduate of Oberlin College and the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Law.

Bruce Vladeck, Ph.D., is senior adviser to Nexera, Inc., a consulting subsidiary of the Greater New York Hospital Association. He was administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration from 1993 through 1997, a period marked by widespread changes to Medicaid programs. His work at HCFA was recognized in 1995 by a National Public Service Award. He remained closely involved in Medicare policy in 1998-99 as a presidential appointee to the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. After leaving HCFA, Vladeck spent six years at Mount Sinai Medical Center, as professor of health policy and geriatrics and senior vice president for policy of the medical center. Vladeck joined Ernst & Young's Health Sciences Advisory Services in 2004. He left that position for 16 months in 2006-07 to serve as interim president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey after it entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney. Vladeck is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the New York Academy of Medicine, and serves on the boards of the Medicare Rights Center and the March of Dimes and on the New York City Board of Health.