Policymakers have begun discussing a potential package of deficit-reduction measures to stop the nation from going over the "fiscal cliff," a series of mandatory budget cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect starting in January 2013. These deficit-reduction measures could potentially include various cuts and/or alterations to Medicare, and there is growing speculation about how Congress will change the program to contain federal spending. Conversations are now underway as President Obama is set to meet with Congressional leaders on Friday.
Republicans have said significant changes to entitlement programs, including Medicare, would have to be included in any deficit-reduction legislation. Labor leaders and other liberal activists have opposed this idea and are pressing President Obama to reject Medicare and Social Security cuts.
Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has warned that excessive cuts to Medicare could be devastating to hospitals that are already coping with reductions under the Affordable Care Act.
Some pundits have predicted that the deficit-reduction bargain could involve raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67, since Obama tentatively agreed to this during debt negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner in 2011.
Health care provider groups such as Premier healthcare alliance and the American Medical Group Association have urged Congress to make Medicare payment changes based on quality through measures such as increased payments for physician practices that are classified as high-performing health systems (which would mean cuts to other nonqualifying providers).