The Hill
December 04, 2012

Baucus: Don't shift health costs to seniors in 'fiscal cliff' deal

A deal to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" should include controlling healthcare spending but shouldn't shift costs to seniors, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Tuesday.

Baucus acknowledged that rising healthcare costs are a burden on federal spending, and he said controlling those underlying costs is the way to tackle entitlements.

"Shifting costs to seniors is not the solution," Baucus said. "We cannot break the promise of Medicare and Social Security."

"As chairman of the Finance Committee, I can influence a lot of policies, but I can’t keep folks from getting older. We need to focus on what we can influence, and that’s overall health care costs," Baucus said at a conference sponsored by the group Fix the Debt.

Baucus did not refer to any specific proposals for cutting federal healthcare spending. 

He cited the rapidly growing number of new Medicare beneficiaries — a point often used to make the case for raising the program's eligibility age. But some Democrats also see raising the eligibility age as a form of shifting costs to seniors, because private insurance is more expensive than Medicare.

Baucus also took a shot at Republican critics of President Obama's healthcare law, which Baucus helped craft. He said the overall prospects for entitlement reform weren't helped by campaign ads that accused the president of "raiding" Medicare to pay for a new entitlement.

"If you turned on any television during the campaign season, you likely saw fiction: attack ad after attack ad claiming billions in cuts to Medicare, putting America’s seniors at risk. Nothing could be further from the truth," Baucus said. "There were zero cuts to Medicare beneficiaries in the Affordable Care Act. These ads are the exact types of misleading political attacks that prevent progress."

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