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Washington Journal Looks at Medicare's Finances

Final segment of a week-long series

Washington, DC
Thursday, August 25, 2011

All this week, our morning program Washington Journal has been examining different aspects of Medicare, the government health insurance program for people over age 65.

Today the topic is Medicare's fiscal challenges and proposals to rein in costs.  The non-profit Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that rising health care costs for an aging population will contribute greatly to the budget deficit if not addressed.  Our guest earlier today was former Democratic U.S. House staffer Brian Biles.  He discussed the growing costs of Medicare, how it's funded, and proposals to reduce costs.  Also, Mr. Biles addressed what the nation might expect from the Deficit Reduction Committee. 

Wednesday, we looked at the Medicare prescription drug program.  We discussed how the privately-administered drug plans work, how seniors can select plans, the fiscal impact of the program, “the doughnut hole” that requires seniors to pay 100% of the cost for some drugs, and how the Affordable Care Act makes changes to the program.  Our guest was former Medicare Administrator Dr. Mark McClellan.

On Tuesday, the topic was Medicare Advantage, which are privately-run insurance plans paid for by Medicare.  Recipients can opt out of traditional Medicare and into these programs.  We spoke with Marsha Gold, who researches the different plans and benefits offered under each of them.  She detailed the changes coming to the program with the implementation of the new Affordable Care Act.

And on Monday, we got an overview of Medicare and some history of the program.  Our guest was Marilyn Serafini of Kaiser Health News.  She talked about the nuts and bolts of how Medicare works and major changes to the program over the last 45 years.

Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 7:19pm (ET)

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