By Elise Viebeck - 06/11/12 08:09 PM EDT
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusThe chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ Sebelius: 'Repugnant' for states to reject Medicaid expansion MORE praised the healthcare reform law Monday for bolstering Medicare and appeared to criticize GOP proposals that would partially privatize the program.
"Before the [healthcare] law passed, there were gaps in Medicare coverage," Sebelius said at a town hall on seniors' health sponsored by the White House.
She added that the law will "maintain all the guaranteed Medicare benefits" seniors now enjoy — "unlike some recent proposals."
"What all of this means is that Medicare is now going to be stronger than ever. Seniors will have better benefits, lower prescription costs and more affordable preventive care. And their children and grandchildren will have a stronger Medicare in the future," Sebelius said.
Parts of the Obama administration have continued to praise the law, even as the Supreme Court decision on its constitutionality looms.
A decision is expected by the end of June.
Sebelius's comments echoed those she gave at a women's health town hall on June 7.
There, she said that she is "confident and optimistic" the law will be upheld, but that "we'll be ready for contingencies" if it is not.
A recent report said Obama has privately expressed concerns he could have to revisit healthcare issues in a second term — an attitude that contradicts the confidence he's expressed publicly that the court will rule for the law.
Sebelius’s remarks came on the same day that Republican lawmakers stated that “the status quo in Medicare is a threat to seniors' care.”
In an informational document, the GOP Doctors' Caucus listed common Republican complaints about Medicare — that its eligibility age needs raising and that some of the program's budget is lost to fraud, among other complaints.
The caucus also complained that the health law's Independent Payment Advisory Board, which will recommend ways to reduce Medicare spending, was a panel of “unelected bureaucrats.”
“They will be charged with developing proposals that cut Medicare — and because the panel is prohibited from suggesting common-sense changes, the panel will only be able to cut reimbursements to physicians and other healthcare providers, resulting in delay and denial of care,” the document argues.
The board’s first recommendations are due in 2014.
Sebelius focused Monday on the affordability of prescription drugs and preventive care services for seniors.
“The rising cost of prescription drugs forced many seniors into the Medicare Part D doughnut hole where they were responsible for the full cost of expensive, but sometimes life-saving, drugs,” she said. “Many seniors also found critical and potentially life-saving preventive services ... out of reach.”
“Today, thanks to the healthcare law, we’re closing these long-standing gaps in care,” she added.
The GOP document did not mention any specific premium-support proposals, such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanFormer GOP senator: I’d back Trump but not Cruz as nominee House GOP reignites push for budget plan GOP chairman: Our ObamaCare alternative coming before July MORE's, (R-Wis.) but said that “every American deserves candor about the challenges the program faces.”
It added: “We believe Congress has a moral obligation to adopt common-sense changes to strengthen Medicare and protect seniors.”
Republicans who signed it were Sens. Tom CoburnTom CoburnGOP faces existential threat Sanders tops 2016 field in newly deleted tweets The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Okla.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoObamaCare premiums expected to rise sharply amid insurer losses Palestine is latest GOP offensive in climate change wars Senate GOP sticks with leadership team MORE (Wyo.), John BoozmanJohn BoozmanBringing US rice back to Cuba Senate passes energy reform bill Capitol Hill’s forest champions helped secure win for wood MORE (Ark.) and Rand PaulRand PaulFive ways Trump will attack Clinton Carter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Rand Paul wants to legalize cooperation MORE (Ky.) and Reps. Phil GingreyPhil GingreyFormer GOP chairman joins K Street Former Rep. Gingrey lands on K Street Tearful lawmakers say goodbye MORE (Ga.), Phil Roe (Tenn.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Paul GosarPaul Gosar Six Republicans reject bill renaming program to recruit women in science GOP pushes to defund sanctuary cities in spending bills Michigan governor, EPA chief under fire for Flint MORE (Ariz.), Diane BlackDiane BlackWatchdog: Group broke federal law escorting women to abortion clinics Backlash to Tubman decision limited, isolated Licensing tax preparers won't help consumers MORE (Tenn.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.), John FlemingJohn FlemingHouse GOP reignites push for budget plan Overnight Defense: GOP, Dems clash over war fund Republicans blast Pentagon energy programs MORE (La.), Charles BoustanyCharles BoustanyCongressman offers tax bill to help small businesses The Trail 2016: The road ahead Overnight Regulation: Republicans move to block financial adviser rule MORE Jr. (La.), Dan BenishekDan BenishekTea Party class reassesses record Michigan Republican to retire The Republicans who voted to withdraw from ISIS war MORE (Mich.), Larry BucshonLarry BucshonOvernight Healthcare: Medicare fight looms on Capitol Hill Medicare battle brewing on Capitol Hill For suburban women, addiction is a key election issue MORE (Ind.) and Andy Harris (Md.).
—This story was updated at 4:55 p.m.