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  Medicare Expansion Seen as a "Tough Sell"  

USA Today (12/14, Wolf) reports on the Senate proposal to expand Medicare, noting that "liberal Democrats backing the plan see it as a potential salvation for people approaching retirement with chronic diseases or medical risks." But moderate "members of the Democratic caucus have concerns" about the deficit and a government takeover of healthcare, and "Republican opponents say Medicare's low reimbursement rates for hospitals and doctors will drive up premiums for those with private insurance -- or will stop medical providers from accepting new Medicare patients."


        Likewise, the Chicago Tribune (12/13, Levey, Oliphant) called the provision a "tough sell," as "lawmakers on Capitol Hill [still] have to settle thorny questions about who will get access, how much it will cost and who will pay." And "those issues have already sparked a new round of lobbying by doctors, hospitals and other interest groups opposed to an expansion of the nation's most powerful government insurance program, which often pays less than private insurers."


        CQ Today (12/14, Armstrong, subscription required) notes that while moderate and rural Senate Democrats are "skeptical" of the proposal, "the question is whether they will be more supportive of the proposal once they can actually see it." Senate Democratic leaders are waiting until the Congressional Budget Office score is in before revealing the entirety of the proposal.


        Proposal to expand Medicare said to be fraught with problems. The AP (12/14, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports, "Senate Democrats are talking about allowing aging baby boomers into [Medicaid], but it's far from free." The AP adds, "On the plus side, Medicare is widely accepted, with 74 percent of doctors saying they are taking all or most new patients. But, many people in their late 50s are still supporting 20-year-olds, even teenage children. Would the Democrats let Medicare cover kids as well?" Meanwhile, "the program's long term financial outlook is in question, with its giant trust fund for inpatient care projected to become insolvent in nine years."


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