Sebelius: Medicare 'stronger than ever' due to healthcare law

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusJerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Mark Halperin inks book deal 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care 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.

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"When you add all the savings in the law up, the average Medicare beneficiary will save $4,200 over the next nine years. And those seniors with high drug costs will see even greater benefits." 

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 Davis RyanIs Joe Biden finished? Krystal Ball previews fifth Democratic debate Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled 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 CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (Okla.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid GOP senators discuss impeachment with Trump after House vote MORE (Wyo.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid VA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal MORE (Ark.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate scraps plan to force second stopgap vote ahead of shutdown On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal Democratic debate at Tyler Perry's could miss the mark with black voters MORE (Ky.) and Reps. Phil GingreyJohn (Phil) Phillip Gingrey2017's top health care stories, from ObamaCare to opioids Beating the drum on healthcare Former GOP chairman joins K Street MORE (Ga.), Phil Roe (Tenn.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarSen. John Kennedy: Americans 'deserve some answers' on Epstein's death Gosar leaves message in tweets: 'Epstein didn't kill himself' Omar comes under scrutiny for 'present' vote on Armenian genocide MORE (Ariz.), Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee MORE (Tenn.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.), John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Overnight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments MORE (La.), Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyMarch tariff increase would cost 934K jobs, advocacy group says Bottom Line On The Money: US adds 155k jobs in November | Unemployment holds at 3.7 percent | Wage growth strengthening | Trump signs stopgap spending bill delaying shutdown MORE Jr. (La.), Dan BenishekDaniel (Dan) Joseph BenishekRepublican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds Tea Party class reassesses record Michigan Republican to retire MORE (Mich.), Larry BucshonLarry Dean Bucshon Trump unveils plan to help kidney patients in push to lower health costs House Republican: Disclosing drug prices in TV ads 'doesn't help the consumer very much' GOP lawmaker has 'a lot of concerns' over coverage if ObamaCare is overturned MORE (Ind.) and Andy Harris (Md.).

—This story was updated at 4:55 p.m.