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Largely lost in discussions about the so-called “fiscal cliff” is the immediate and very real threat that drastic spending cuts pose to the health and health care of many Californians.
Failure by Congress and the White House to reach an agreement on reducing the national deficit will trigger nearly $1 trillion in automatic cuts beginning as early as January 2013. These cuts threaten programs like Medicare and the Medicare Part D program that millions of Californians rely on for treatment.
As California’s federal legislators work to reduce the national budget deficit, it is critical that they consider the negative impact that drastic spending cuts and changes to the federal Medicare and Medicare Part D programs will have on patient care, medical innovation and the U.S. economy.
Medicare Part D is a successful prescription drug program that provides seniors and the disabled with access to affordable medication. Competition among health plans and strong cost controls help keep the overall cost of treatment down.
Adherence to the treatments prescribed by doctors is critical to helping patients manage many chronic conditions. Before the Part D program, up to a third of seniors were unable to afford many treatments, which forced millions of seniors to go without the medicines they needed. When patients go without treatment, their conditions often worsen, which leads to an increase in emergency room visits and extended stays in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The California Urological Association (CUA) is the largest state urological association and our membership treats many Medicare patients. California has nearly five million Medicare beneficiaries, and so California patients and physicians will be disproportionately affected by significant cuts to the Medicare program.
CUA opposes reforms or cuts to the Medicare program that freeze income threshold, raise co-insurance or increase beneficiary cost sharing. These types of spending cuts will ultimately exacerbate the problem of rising health care costs.
Our members support the Medicare Part D program both because it improves the overall health of seniors by increasing access to medicine and because the program consistently comes in under budget, which saves all taxpayers money. The Part D program is in its sixth year, and has come in $435 billion under budget, which means that it is reducing spending in other areas of the health care system while costing the government less than expected.
Reforms to the system that stifle competition will inflate premiums for seniors, diminish critical research and development and jeopardize thousands of quality California jobs. The real keys to reducing health care costs are improving payment, delivery, and preventative care services.
Although mounting deficits are a very real threat to U.S. economic viability, efforts to reduce our debt should not come at the expense of patients – especially seniors, the disabled and other vulnerable patient populations – nor cripple American medical innovation.
Eugene Rhee, M.D.
California Urological Association (CUA)
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