To its credit, InsideHealthPolicy looked at the other side of the AHA’s solution to the doc fix: How would it impact those who rely on Medicare? Associate editor Michelle Stein pointed out that the AHA’s suggestions come on the heels of a new report from the advocacy group Medicare Rights Center which found that beneficiaries are “ill-equipped to shoulder higher health care costs.” Each year, the Center examines thousands of calls to its national hotline from beneficiaries across the country. This year’s report showed 21 percent of beneficiaries had trouble paying for their care and the premiums and cost-sharing Medicare currently requires. They weren’t just people with traditionally low incomes, said Joe Baker who heads the Center. “They are middle class folks who are just stretched out.” Mitchell Clark, the Center’s senior communications associate, told me there have been no calls from the press about the AHA’s recommendations.
Although neither the Center’s report nor the AHA press call got tons of coverage, what happens to Medicare is likely to surface as an election issue this year, and merits wider press attention. If beneficiaries take a hit that does result in benefit reductions, the backlash will be a noisy one. (Recall the political hullabaloo the GOP created in 2010 and 2012 elections over whether the ACA did or did not cut seniors’ benefits.) But beyond the political fall-out from reducing benefits and making seniors pay more out of pocket, those depending on the program for medical care need to know what’s going on. If the press doesn’t tell them, who will?
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