Joint Press

Aging Committee to Examine Ways to Strengthen Medicare

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As lawmakers in Washington continue to grapple over ways to reduce the deficit, what to do about Medicare will take center stage this week during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The hearing, the first under the leadership of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), comes at a time when Congress remains divided over ways to shore up the federal health insurance program that covers 48 million seniors and disabled Americans.  

While some lawmakers have proposed turning Medicare into a voucher-type system, recent polling suggests most Americans strongly oppose significantly cutting or changing the program to reduce the deficit.

Against that backdrop, Nelson wants to the committee examine ways to strengthen and protect Medicare without reducing benefits or shifting costs to seniors.

"There are many good ways to strengthen Medicare that I believe most folks can agree on," said Nelson.  

The committee will hear from a panel of health-care delivery experts on a number of ideas aimed at keeping Medicare costs under control by improving care.  Among other things, they include paying providers for quality of care instead of quantity of care and reducing costly and unnecessary hospital readmissions.     

Additionally, the committee will take testimony from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation on their latest survey on the public's attitude toward Medicare and efforts to reform it.  In January, the foundation found that 58 percent of Americans opposed Medicare spending cuts.      
Nelson is also likely to ask the panel about Medicare fraud and reducing prescription drug costs for seniors, additional areas for savings that he has long supported.
The hearing follows a two-day fact-finding tour Nelson concluded last week where he gathered ideas from some of his state's best scientists, doctors and policy-makers on a wide-array of issues affecting the elderly.  Nelson assumed the chairmanship of the committee last month.

Senate Special Committee on Aging Hearing
"Strengthening Medicare for Today and the Future"
Wednesday, February 27,  3:00 p.m.
106 Dirksen Senate Office Building

• Juliette Cubanski, Ph.D., Associate Director, Medicare Policy Project, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
• David Blumenthal, M.D., President, The Commonwealth Fund
• Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD: Robert W. Woodruff Professor and Chair ,Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
• David Goodman, M.D., Director, Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and Co-Principal Investigator, Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care

For Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

Bryan Gulley, Communications Director
Senate Special Committee on Aging