Now that the budget “sequester” is in effect, Congress is shifting its attention to entitlement reform. There’s simply no way to achieve long-term reductions in federal spending without touching the big health programs, particularly Medicare. Although raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 appears off the table, at least for now, the budget plan that Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., is proposing would shift a greater share of the program’s growing costs to beneficiaries.
The bipartisan deal that kept the federal government from hurtling over the “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 2 actually increased Medicare spending. At the last minute, a bipartisan group of senators inserted a provision into the bill that blocked Medicare, for two years, from getting a better price on an expensive drug used by kidney dialysis patients. This was in addition to a previous two-year extension obtained by Amgen, the drug’s manufacturer. The move saddled Medicare with roughly $500 million in added costs over the next two years and generated a windfall for Amgen.
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