Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech addressed a variety of national issues – notably the sluggish economy – but the annual status check on the country’s biggest challenges and the President’s ideas for resolving them did touch on a few topics relating to health and health insurance. So did Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) televised response to Obama’s ideas.
Medicare was a big topic, notes David Pittman in an article for MedPage Today. A few days earlier, the Obama administration had announced its intention not to raise the eligibility age for the program from 65 to 67, one of several cost-saving measures that has been proposed as a way to keep the program going. During the State of the Union, Obama added to the plan to keep the program viable, suggesting that Medicare reimbursement should be changed to reward the quality of treatments performed, rather than the numbers and types of procedures that take place, and that the payment levels for prescriptions should be reformed to cut costs. He also advocated raising Medicare premiums for wealthier seniors, according to an article by N.C. Aizenman of the Washington Post.
In addition, Mr. Pittman writes, the President pushed for improved health care for veterans, including mental health care, as well as continued global health efforts to reduce preventable childhood deaths and the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS. His speech also contained a mention of health reform and the slowdown in healthcare cost increases that has taken place in recent years – though he did not imply that the health law has caused costs to level off.
In the Republican Response, Sen. Rubio expressed skepticism that health reform and the President’s other proposals would go far enough in curtailing the growing costs of healthcare, according to a blog post by Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post’s Fact Checker Blog. Rubio cited the difficulties that some businesses are having in complying with the law’s requirements and the effects that this is having on workers and hiring. According to a discussion between health policy experts at Kaiser Health News, Rubio also worried that Obama’s proposed reforms to Medicare could bankrupt the program and suggested a bigger overhaul that would change its overall aim to health insurance premium support rather than coverage of all (or nearly all) of a senior’s health costs.