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"They should have used Medicare dollars to fix this," said Moon, who helped oversee program finances from 1995-2000. "It's irresponsible" that the health care law left such a major issue unresolved, she said, while at the same time claiming to reduce the federal deficit.
"I think we should have put a crowbar in our wallets and still come up with the money for the uninsured," added Moon. "But in trying to meet a range of goals -- having the bill not be more than $1 trillion and having it be budget-neutral -- they dumped this issue." Moon now directs the health care program at the American Institutes for Research.
The problem with doctor fees stems from requirements of a 1990s deficit reduction law. Well before Obama was elected president, Congress had settled into a pattern of routinely waiving the cuts. But that only compounded the long-range problem, growing the size of future cuts required to meet savings targets.
The Obama administration supports repealing the cuts altogether, and the House passed legislation to do that. But a Senate version couldn't muster the 60 votes needed to move forward.
"The key problem is that no one wants to pay for it," said John Rother, top strategist for AARP, the seniors' lobby. "This is something that requires some additional revenue, and we should face up to that fact."
Meanwhile, at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday, the Obama administration unveiled a brochure explaining the benefits of the new health care law to seniors. The government is mailing it to more than 40 million Medicare recipients, and Republicans are criticizing it as political spin. The law, says the brochure, "keeps Medicare strong and solvent."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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