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Possible healthcare savings of $385 billion require scrapping current plans, says Center for American Progress

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Current congressional plans to reduce federal healthcare spending only shifts costs to millions of citizens, but there exist options to save more than $385 billion, says the Center for American Progress.

In a report (.pdf) published Nov. 14, the center takes a hard stance against proposals to curtail healthcare costs in this year's House Republican budget (.pdf), stating that a Medicare voucher program would result in seniors aged 50 to 55 paying $60,000 more for Medicare during their retirement, while people under age 50 would pay $124,600 more.

Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67, would also increase costs for 5.4 million seniors, their employers and state governments, the report adds.  "These cost increases would be twice as large as the federal savings, increasing overall health spending." Another 270,000 seniors, it says, would become uninsured.

The report puts forth an alternative approach it calls the Senior Protection Plan, which it claims will save the federal government $385 billion over 10 years, while generating up to $100 billion over 10 years through health care-related tax policy changes. Projections, it says, are based on Congressional Budget Office numbers.

The report says the federal govrnment can save $48 billion by expanding competitive bidding to more medical devices, tests, supplies and to more programs like Medicaid and Medicare Advantage. Competitive bidding, it adds, has already cut Medicare costs on durable medical equipment--such as hospital beds and wheelchairs--by more than 42 percent in 2011.

It says other large savings could be had by paying the same for a service regardless if it is at a hospital or physician's office ($26 billion), extending Medicaid drug prices and rebates to Medicare beneficiaries ($137.4 billion), and increasing premiums on high-income Medicare beneficiaries ($25 billion).

Some of the proposals are likely to incite backlash, including a projected $42 billion savings on future costs through raising existing taxes on cigarettes and cigars by 50 percent in 2013 and having the increase keep up with inflation.

For more:
- download the full report (.pdf)

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