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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law is getting a mixed verdict in the first comprehensive look by neutral experts: More Americans will be covered, but costs are also going up.
Concerns about Medicare could become a major political liability in the midterm elections. The report projected that Medicare cuts could drive about 15 percent of hospitals and other institutional providers into the red, ''possibly jeopardizing access'' to care for seniors.
The report from Medicare's Office of the Actuary carried a disclaimer saying it does not represent the official position of the Obama administration. White House officials have repeatedly complained that such analyses have been too pessimistic and lowball the law's potential to achieve savings.
The report acknowledged that some of the cost-control measures in the bill -- Medicare cuts, a tax on high-cost insurance and a commission to seek ongoing Medicare savings -- could help reduce the rate of cost increases beyond 2020. But it held out little hope for progress in the first decade.
''During 2010-2019, however, these effects would be outweighed by the increased costs associated with the expansions of health insurance coverage,'' wrote Richard S. Foster, Medicare's chief actuary. ''Also, the longer-term viability of the Medicare ... reductions is doubtful.'' Foster's office is responsible for long-range costs estimates.
Republicans said the findings validate their concerns about Obama's 10-year, nearly $1 trillion plan to remake the nation's health care system.
In addition to flagging provider cuts as potentially unsustainable, the report projected that reductions in payments to private Medicare Advantage plans would trigger an exodus from the popular alternative. Enrollment would plummet by about 50 percent. Seniors leaving the private plans would still have health insurance under traditional Medicare, but many might face higher out-of-pocket costs.
In another flashing yellow light, the report warned that a new voluntary long-term care insurance program created under the law faces ''a very serious risk'' of insolvency.
Economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department concluded in a report issued Thursday that the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance -- adding 34 million to the coverage rolls.