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Medicare panel's demise gets mixed College reaction

From the April 1999 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 1999 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

The College is calling the demise of the Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare a mixed blessing.

Late last month, the 17-member commission disbanded without reaching consensus on how to reform Medicare. Robert B. Doherty, the College's Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs and Public Policy, said that while he would have liked the commission to "move the debate forward" by issuing recommendations, many of the ideas under discussion were flawed.

The College opposed the proposal from the commission's chair, Sen. John B. Breaux (D-La.), to make Medicare a defined contribution program, which would give beneficiaries a voucher to purchase coverage. ACP-ASIM worried that the vouchers would not allow beneficiaries to purchase adequate coverage.

In addition, the College opposed proposals to raise Medicare eligibility from age 65 to 67, arguing that doing so would increase the number of uninsured seniors. It also opposed proposals to remove funding for graduate medical education from Medicare.

Analysts note that many of these proposals may resurface in the form of legislation sponsored by Sen. Breaux and others. More information on the commission and Medicare reform will appear in upcoming issues of ACP-ASIM Observer.

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