Obama sticks to same Medicare cost-savers

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President Obama sticks to his Medicare proposals from last year in his 2013 budget, asking seniors to pay more for their Medicare while also cutting payments to health care providers.

His budget projects Medicare spending of $528 billion in fiscal 2013. The president estimates that Medicare can save at least $370 billion over 10 years with a variety of cuts, such as paying hospitals less for bad debts, when seniors miss co-pays and deductibles, and cutting the cost of drugs for seniors who are also enrolled in Medicaid.

Obama also proposes things that his fellow Democrats won’t like. He wants wealthier seniors to pay more for Medicare, and changes the deductible for doctors’ visits for seniors who enrolled after 2017. He also adds a new co-payment for home health services and increases premiums if seniors choose to have a supplemental “Medigap” plan.

Overall, the president requested $76.4 billion for the Health and Human Services Department, a bump of $7 billion from fiscal 2012.

To help implement the health reform law, Obama wants a $1 billion increase to $4.8 billion for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in fiscal 2013.

The agency got $3.8 billion in 2012 to run the mammoth federal health programs of Medicare and Medicaid and develop critical pieces of the health care law, from building state insurance exchanges to regulating the private health insurance market.

The president requested a $758 million increase for CMS in 2012, but Congress only bumped up the agency’s funding by $241 million last year. In a time of budget slashing on Capitol Hill, getting any increase is impressive, particularly with Republicans repeatedly targeting the health care law.

But increasing funding isn’t going to get any easier this year, especially as Congress faces down an election in November. That means it is unlikely that Obama will get the full $1 billion increase.

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