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Event Summary
At an AEI event on Tuesday morning, Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) discussed their plan for Medicare reform — the Seniors’ Choice Act. Sen. Burr stressed the need for income testing for Medicare beneficiaries and the importance of eliminating the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Sen. Coburn outlined the general structure of their plan: premium support including traditional fee-for-service Medicare.

In kicking off Part II of the event, Medicare’s chief actuary Richard Foster discussed the findings of the 2012 Medicare Trustees Report that was released yesterday. According to calculations, Medicare spending currently represents 3.7 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and could grow to 6.7 percent in the next 75 years. Moreover, if hospitals do not achieve greater productivity and Congress continues to override changes to Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate formula, that figure will jump to 10.4 percent of GDP in 2086.

AEI’s Norman Ornstein emphasized the importance of Medicare reform in the upcoming presidential campaign and stressed how much this reform hinges on the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and AEI argued that the ACA is not deficit-neutral — as the Congressional Budget Office claims — because it uses new taxes to fill the deficit in the hospital insurance fund and to fund new entitlements.

Wendell Primus of the Office of the House Minority Leader disagreed with Capretta’s objections, touting the ACA’s ability to improve Medicare’s solvency and lower overall health spending. Robert Reischauer of the Urban Institute and Gail Wilensky of Project Hope then highlighted the role the private sector will play in reforming the health care system. Wilensky concluded the discussion by reminding everyone that despite the political contentiousness of Medicare reform, some agreement exists on how to improve the program.
— Catherine Griffin

Event Summary
Medicare is facing a fiscal calamity: how can the growth of Medicare spending be limited while ensuring that beneficiaries continue to have access to affordable health care? With an aging U.S. population and rising health costs, Medicare spending is growing at an unsustainable rate.

In Part I of this event, Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) will discuss their proposed Seniors’ Choice Act, which provides a reform blueprint seeking to promote health plan competition and to give beneficiaries a choice between traditional Medicare and private plans. Sen. Coburn and Sen. Burr will discuss the urgent need for Medicare reform and will address how their proposal will allow for maintenance and improvement of the program.

In Part II of this event, Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, will discuss the findings of this year’s Medicare trustees report, which will provide an essential update on the program’s fiscal outlook, including the potential of ACA initiatives to bend Medicare’s cost curve. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) plan would give individuals a premium support payment that they could use to purchase coverage from competing health plans. A panel of experts will debate the implications of the Medicare trustees report findings for seniors and taxpayers, their potential impact on the upcoming election and the likelihood that future legislation will reform and preserve the Medicare program.

Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


8:15 AM

8:30 AM
Richard Burr, U.S. Senate (R-NC)
Tom Coburn, M.D., U.S. Senate (R-OK)

Robert B. Helms, AEI

9:15 AM
Richard Foster, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

James C. Capretta, Ethics and Public Policy Center and AEI
Norman J. Ornstein, AEI
Wendell Primus, Office of the House Minority Leader
Robert Reischauer, Urban Institute
Gail Wilensky, Project Hope

Joseph Antos, AEI

11:30 AM


Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Catherine Griffin at [email protected], 202.862.5920.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Joseph Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at AEI. He is also a commissioner of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission and a health adviser to the Congressional Budget Office. Before joining AEI, Antos was assistant director for health and human resources at the Congressional Budget Office. At AEI, Antos’s research focuses on the economics of health policy, including Medicare reform, health insurance regulation and the uninsured. He has written and spoken extensively on the Medicare drug benefit and has led a team of experienced independent actuaries and cost estimators in a study to evaluate various proposals to extend health coverage to the uninsured. Antos is the co-author of the AEI paper “A Better Prescription: AEI Scholars on Realistic Health Reform.”Antos is also the author of the recent New England Journal of Medicine paper, “The Wyden-Ryan Proposal: A Foundation for Realistic Medicare Reform.”

Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was sworn in to serve North Carolina in the U.S. Senate on January 4, 2005, after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1994. Burr is committed to promoting job growth and advocating for men and women in the military and their families and the growing population of veterans across North Carolina. In the Senate, he serves as ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where he works to improve the quality of health care and services our nation’s veterans receive. He also sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; the Intelligence Committee; and the Finance Committee.  He began his career by spending 17 years in business with Carswell Distributing, a wholesale commercial products company.

James C. Capretta has spent more than two decades studying American health care policy. As an associate director at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004, he was responsible for all health care, Social Security and welfare issues. Earlier, he served as a senior health policy analyst at the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and at the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means. Capretta is also concurrently a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. At AEI, he researches how to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with a less expensive reform plan to provide effective and secure health insurance for working-age Americans and their families.

Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.) has served in the U.S. Senate since 2005. His priorities in the Senate include reducing wasteful spending, protecting liberty, balancing the budget, improving health care access and affordability, protecting the sanctity of all human life and representing traditional values. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Committee on Finance. Before his election to the Senate, Dr. Coburn represented Oklahoma’s Second Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1995 through 2001. From 1970 to 1978, Dr. Coburn served as manufacturing manager at the Ophthalmic Division of Coburn Optical Industries in Colonial Heights, Virginia. After the family business was sold, he returned to school to become a physician. Dr. Coburn practices medicine in Muskogee, Okla., where he specializes in family medicine, obstetrics and the treatment of allergies.

Richard S. Foster is the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where he is responsible for all actuarial and other financial analyses for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Before becoming chief actuary in 1995, he served as deputy chief actuary for the Social Security Administration for 13 years. Foster is a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries, American Statistical Association, American Economic Association and National Academy of Social Insurance. He has written numerous articles and reports on Medicare and Social Security issues for publications including Transactions of the Society of Actuaries and the Health Care Financing Review.  Foster has testified before Congress on numerous occasions and has made more than 200 other presentations on Medicare, Medicaid, national health insurance and Social Security issues.

Robert B. Helms is a resident scholar at AEI. He has served as a member of the Medicaid Commission as well as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation and deputy assistant secretary for health policy at the Department of Health and Human Services. An economist by training, Helms has written and lectured extensively on health policy and health economics, including the history of Medicare, the tax treatment of health insurance and comparisons of international health systems. He currently participates in the Health Policy Consensus Group, an informal task force that is developing consumer-driven health reforms. He is the author or editor of several AEI Press books on health policy, including “Medicare in the Twenty-First Century: Seeking Fair and Efficient Reform” (1999) and “Competitive Strategies in the Pharmaceutical Industry” (1996).

Norman J. Ornstein is a longtime observer of Congress and politics. He writes a weekly column for Roll Call and is an election analyst for CBS News. He also serves as co-director of the AEI-Brookings Project on Redistricting and as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law known as McCain-Feingold, which reformed the campaign-financing system. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include “The Permanent Campaign and Its Future” (AEI Press, 2000), “The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track” (Oxford University Press, 2006, with Thomas E. Mann), “Vital Statistics on Congress, 2008” (Brookings Institution Press, 2008, with Mann and Michael Malbin) and the upcoming “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism” (Basic Books, 2012, with Mann).

Wendell Primus is the senior policy adviser on budget and health issues to U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Before his appointment in March 2005, Primus was the minority staff director at the Joint Economic Committee and the director of income security for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He previously served in the Clinton administration as the deputy assistant secretary for human services policy at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he was primarily responsible for policy development and research and evaluation on issues relating to income assistance, employment and related human services programs. Primus has also served as chief economist for the House Ways and Means Committee and staff director for the Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Resources. During his 15-year tenure at Ways and Means, he was responsible for editing 13 editions of the committee’s “Green Book.”

Robert D. Reischauer is president emeritus of the Urban Institute, which he led for twelve years before stepping down in February 2012. Between 1989 and 1995, he served as the director of the Congressional Budget Office and was its assistant director for human resources and deputy director from 1977 to 1981. Reischauer was previously a senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program of the Brookings Institution (1986–1989 and 1985–2000) and senior vice president of the Urban Institute (1981–1986). A nationally recognized economist, he has written, commented, lectured and testified on a wide range of topics, including federal budget policy, health reform, social welfare issues and the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Reischauer is the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, one of two public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, and serves on the boards of several educational and nonprofit organizations. He was a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission from 2000 to 2009 and its vice chair from 2001 to 2008. He also chaired the National Academy of Social Insurance’s Restructuring Medicare for the Long Term project.

Gail Wilensky
is an economist and senior fellow at Project HOPE, an international health foundation. She directed the Medicare and Medicaid programs and was a senior adviser on health and welfare issues to President George H.W. Bush and was also the first chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. Her expertise is on strategies to reform health care, with emphasis on Medicare, comparative effectiveness research and military health care. Wilensky is a trustee of the Combined Benefits Fund of the United Mine Workers of America and the National Opinion Research Center and is on the board of regents of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the visiting committee of the Harvard Medical School and the board of directors of the Geisinger Health System Foundation. She recently served as president of the Defense Health Board, a commissioner on the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, co-chair of Department of Defense Task Force on the Future of Military Health Care and chair of the Physician Payment Review Commission.

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