White House Warns Cutting Medicare Will Shift Costs

WASHINGTON — If Congress addresses the nation's budget deficit by cutting Medicare, that will simply shift health care costs to the private sector and not address the underlying issues, Obama administration officials said Tuesday at a White House briefing.

"If you only focus on Medicare, you shift the costs," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, adding that Medicare and Medicaid are not the reason health costs are going up. Costs in these programs are increasing at a slower pace than private-sector health care costs, she said. "You don't do anything about the trajectory the U.S. is on ... unless you concentrate on the underlying costs."

Medicare, as a "major, public financing system," can be used as a stimulus to drive down health care costs across the board, she said.

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