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Health bill may mean lower Medicare premiums

But an independent federal report says it will also drive up overall U.S. healthcare costs.

April 22, 2010|By Noam Levey, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The new healthcare overhaul championed by President Obama may result in lower Medicare premiums for seniors and a more sustainable Medicare program, according to an analysis of the legislation issued Thursday night by independent actuaries at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The analysis, the first since Obama signed the law last month, suggests that the Medicare program will remain viable until 2029 – longer than some earlier projections. Before passage of the healthcare overhaul, Medicare had been projected to slip into the red in 2017.

But the healthcare law also will push up the nation's total healthcare tab, as the federal government spends more than $800 billion over the next decade to expand health coverage to more than 33 million Americans, the analysts concluded.

That spending is to be offset by a series of new taxes and cuts in future Medicare spending. The report cautioned that unless Congress sticks to the proposed cuts, the projected savings could evaporate.

The report, which parallels earlier estimates of the impact of the healthcare bill, was conducted by an independent office within the administration.

nlevey@tribune.com

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