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Local Expert Looks At Fiscal Cliff's Potential Impact On Senior Care

Should Congress fail in their efforts to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” deep spending cuts to Medicare could prove disastrous for hospitals and seniors here in our community, said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.

Congress has yet to make a deal with President Barack Obama on extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

A local health care expert discussed the potential repercussions Tuesday.  

“Medicare is on the table,” said Dr. Gene Dorio, host of “The Senior Hour.”

”It will affect access to healthcare for some, but that depends on what the compromises are. They could increase the age of participation from 65 to 66, 67 or 68, or the cost of premiums our seniors would have to pay could go up,” Dorio said.

Vital services being provided to the nation’s growing Medicare population are at risk, AHA officials said.

Hospitals’ ability to maintain the kind of access to services that their communities have come to expect is being threatened. More than 500,000 jobs could be lost by 2014 and up to 766,000 jobs by 2021 as a result of the 2 percent sequester of Medicare spending, according to the AHA.

“Those in the range of 60-64, those people are looking forward to getting medicare,” Dorio said, listing those who could be most affected.

“The timing, increase in premiums and access (are three areas that might see an impact),” he added. “Some seniors might not be able to afford premiums to health care unless a compromise is made.”

Obama is signaling flexibility on where the rates eventually wind up. Obama says he knows he won't get everything that he wants in negotiations with congressional Republicans. He made the comments Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The health care sector is an economic mainstay, providing stability and even growth during times of recession. Nearly 300,000 health care sector jobs have been added to the U.S. workforce so far in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Democrats and Republicans need to be more wise on how we spend our money. We spend the most money on medicare the last two weeks of life,” he said. “We need to let seniors decide what type of end-of-life care they want.”