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Medicare advocates worried about possible costs to seniors

Medicare will look different a year from now, as the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.  But, Medicare advocates are worried about some potential changes to the program that pays for health care for the elderly.

Joe Baker is president of the Medicare Rights Center, a national non-profit that works towards affordable access to health care for older Americans.  He told a group of health care advocates in Syracuse recently that the thing that worries him right now, is talk about how to make Medicare more financially stable.
"Most policy makers and legislators are using the phrase, like we need to make sure people with Medicare have more' skin in the game.'  And what that means is they should be paying more for health care, and if they are paying more they will use less care and that will bring costs down," said Baker. "The problem with that is they will use less care, but they will use less necessary care because they won't be able to afford it."

Baker says the answer to Medicare's woes, is to cut costs, by doing things like having the government negotiate better prices for prescription drugs, and changing the way health care is delivered.

"Not paying for the latest, most expensive drug but looking at other effective therapies.  Not using the most expensive technology first.  Using other technologies," suggested Baker.

He noted that a year from now, people will be starting to enroll into Affordable Care Act exchanges, and some of the changes included in that legislation will start to take place. Baker spoke in Syracuse recently as part of a Health Foundation for Western and Central New York forum.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.