Medicare must be changed to survive
Medicare must be changed if the program is to survive. Leaving the program on its current trajectory would expose seniors to rationed and restricted care while the reforms that House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is proposing would actually save and preserve Medicare.
Nonetheless, those who are demagoguing the issue for political gain are pretending that they are going to protect Medicare from any change. But this denies that under the president’s policies; 1) $575 billion will be taken out of Medicare to pay for two new ObamaCare entitlement programs; 2) President Obama gives unprecedented power to an unelected, unaccountable panel of bureaucrats whose sole job is to cut payments for medical care.
The Medicare Trustees recently reported that the program is speeding toward insolvency five years faster than they reported just a year ago, and the program is now facing $38 trillion in red ink.
Chief Medicare Actuary Richard S. Foster said in a supplementary report that under current law, Medicare is on track to pay providers less than Medicaid does, and this would lead to “severe problems with beneficiary access to care.”
Medicare simply can’t be sustained as it is. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) explained, “Last year, Medicare expenditures reached $523 billion, but the income was only $486 billion — leaving a $37 billion deficit in just one year. And with 10,000 new individuals becoming eligible each day, it’s only going to get worse.”
Seventy-seven million baby boomers have started hitting the program, exacerbating its insolvency. The changes in the new health overhaul law will mean draconian cuts in payments to providers and access to care, turning the program into a mirror image of the worst health coverage program in the country today — Medicaid. Medicaid pays doctors so little few can afford to see Medicaid patients, rationing care by forcing people to wait in hospital emergency rooms for even routine care. And ObamaCare shoves another 25 million people into Medicaid’s rolls, surely tearing the safety net to shreds and likely bankrupting the states in the process.
Ryan says that the outcry against his reform plan is “not just overheated – it is flat-out false. Our budget – ‘The Path to Prosperity’ – strengthens the safety net by directing more assistance to those who need it most… Most important, it prevents the kind of debt-fueled economic crisis that would hit the poor the hardest.”
Under his plan, beginning in 2022, beneficiaries are guaranteed a choice among Medicare-approved private health options in a program like members of Congress have today and that one fourth of Medicare beneficiaries have voluntarily chosen – Medicare Advantage.
As the Congressional Budget Office notes: “Plans would have to issue insurance to all people eligible for Medicare who applied.” In other words, all Medicare beneficiaries are guaranteed a health plan that will be available for them.
Those who are older, sicker, and poorer would get the most financial assistance. Everyone would benefit from a program in which health plans are competing to provide the best service and care rather than trying to jump through the endless number of bureaucratic hoops created by Washington.
Medicare is going to be changed, one way or the other. Not changing Medicare is not an option. Without a serious course adjustment, seniors will face a lower-quality of care and rationing through waiting lines and other restrictions in a program that this administration is using like a piggy bank to pay for other government expansions.
If Medicare’s antiquated, open-ended, fee-for-service model isn’t reformed, then we would be forced to raise taxes to levels that would topple the economy as millions of baby boomers hit retirement.
We must have an adult conversation about this, and the American people, who are scared to death about the growth in the size of government and a tsunami of red ink from entitlement spending, need to lead their elected representatives toward sensible reforms.
By Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a research organization focused on patient-centered heath reform. She is coauthor of Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America (Broadside/HarperCollins).