Published November 16, 2009
A fresh analysis of the House health care reform plan has sounded a warning about the impact proposed Medicare cuts would have on seniors and could spell trouble for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's effort to pull a unified Senate bill to the floor by the end of the week.
The House and would-be Senate bills rely on hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare to keep reform deficit-neutral.
But even though President Obama pledged as recently as last week that the legislation would bring down the cost of health care "while strengthening the financial health of Medicare," the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, issued an official analysis that found the House bill breaks both pledges.
The report said the reductions in Medicare spending would lower payments to providers such as doctors and hospitals and that they "might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries)."
Republicans who have been complaining about the Medicare cuts for months took this as validation of the excessive spending and lack of savings supporters vow will be found in the bills.
"The administration's own actuary ... has said that it will drive the cost of health care up and that it will hurt seniors," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is a bill that cuts Medicare, raises taxes and raises insurance premiums."
The study also found that the House bill would not lower healthcare spending overall but national expenditures would actually increase by $289 billion.
The Kentucky Republican said the actuary's report only strengthens the case to "delay the process" to allow for further review.
"It's been in Harry Reid's office for six weeks and the other 99 senators have not seen it. I think we ought to at least have as much time for the other 99 senators and all of the American people to take a look at this bill as Majority Leader Reid has had," McConnell said.
Republicans weren't the only ones accusing Democrats of breaking promises. Abortion rights advocates were out in force Monday accusing Democratic leaders of breaking pledges by accepting restrictions on abortion.
"It will be better to dump this entire bill then to allow it to become law with these noxious provisions intact," said Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State
"This is not the health care reform we were promised," said Kelli Conlin, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York. "We were promised time and again that no one would lose existing coverage under health care reform, but the Stupak amendment turns that promise into lie because woman who currently has abortion coverage and joins the exchange will simply not have access to same plan."
One other complication for lawmakers is the so-called "doctor fix" in Medicare that the House still has to take up. It costs $210 billion and by law, seniors have to cover one-quarter of the cost. That means seniors would be paying $50 billion more in premiums over the next 10 years, an unexpected surprise.
Finally, some 60 percent of the uninsured would get insurance only because the House expands eligibility for Medicaid, government-paid health care for the poor. Critics say that's not reform, just an expansion of entitlements, which are already straining federal and state budgets.
Fox News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.