99-051 (Future of Medicare)
Distributed November 15, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Scott Turner

Health care and the community

Free forum at Brown will explore fate of Medicare

Stuart Altman, an expert on Medicare reform, will discuss “Medicare in the Millennium: Politics, Policy and Patient Care” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, 1999, in Room 117 of MacMillan Hall, at George and Thayer streets on the Brown University campus. The event is free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Some health-care analysts think Medicare could be a model for a national health insurance plan – one that would include coverage for the nation’s 44 million uninsured. Others want fundamental changes in the federal program.

On Thursday, Dec. 2, 1999, at 6 p.m., one of the nation’s leading health-care policy experts will discuss “Medicare in the Millennium: Politics, Policy and Patient Care.” Stuart Altman, the Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy at Brandeis University, will present The Paul Levinger Lecture and then take questions from the audience. This program, free and open to the public, will take place in Room 117 of MacMillan Hall, located at George and Thayer streets in Providence on the campus of Brown University.

Altman will discuss short-term pressures on Medicare such as the effect of the Balanced Budget Act on health care and the nation’s teaching hospitals. He will also explore long-term issues, including Medicare’s financial picture and what may happen to the health insurance program in the future, as the nation’s Medicare-eligible population will double by the year 2030. Altman will also outline some of the proposals put forth to reform Medicare.

Medicare may insure people age 65 and older, but Altman says there are two compelling reasons young and middle-aged adults should take an interest in its fate. “Someone in your family will probably be on Medicare soon, or you will be on it,” he said. “What we do or don’t do, folks under 65 are going to have to pay for.”

Southern New Englanders know firsthand about the rapid changes in health care. Local hospital networks say they must merge to remain competitive. Meanwhile, one of Rhode Island’s leading HMOs is collapsing. Consumers elsewhere are experiencing problems with rising health-care costs, access to adequate care or other health-care-system issues.

As for Medicare, it is a monolith, when it comes to insurance payments, said Vince Mor, director of Brown’s Public Health Program, sponsor of Altman’s discussion. Many U.S. hospitals receive more than 50 percent of their revenues from the program, he said. “As Medicare goes, so does a lot of other things when it comes to health-care systems,” Mor said.

Altman currently chairs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Council on the Economic Impact of Health System Change. Until recently, he served on the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. Altman is the former chair of the congressionally mandated Prospective Payment Assessment Commission, which advises Congress and the President about Medicare payments.

In addition, Altman was senior member of President Clinton’s Health Policy Transition Team. He still advises the Administration on health-care issues.

The Paul Levinger Lecture is one of three public presentations in December to celebrate the first quarter-century of accomplishment in medical education, research and patient care, for the Brown University School of Medicine.

At 7 p.m. Wed. Dec. 8, writer and columnist Jane Brody will present The Frank and Joan Rothman Forum,“Taking Charge of Your Health.” On Dec. 14 at 4 p.m., Sen. Jack Reed will give The Charles O. Cooke, M.D. ’99 Lecture, “The Outlook for Medical Education and Biomedical Research in the 106th Congress.”

The Paul Levinger Professorship Pro Tem in the Economics of Health Care was endowed in 1987 to honor the memory of Paul Levinger by his wife, the late Ruth N. Levinger, and his daughter and son-in-law, Bette Levinger Cohen and John M. Cohen ’59 M.D.

For more information, call (401) 863-3232.