A recent post from the June 14 Healthcare Blog is definitely worth a close read. Grace Marie-Turner outlines the dire challenges facing Medicare, and the contrasting views on how to change the program so that it becomes sustainable.
As both Democrats and Republicans do everything in their power to politicize this issue and demonize each other, it is worth taking a step back and looking at some of the realities underscoring why Medicare reform needs to happen, regardless of what side of the political fence you are on.
House Energy and Commerce chairman Fred Upton recently 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.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) captured it best in a new video, saying, “Medicare will go broke in as little as nine years … and anyone who is in favor of doing nothing to deal with this fact is in favor of bankrupting it.”
Currently the Medicare reform proposal attracting the most attention comes from House Budget chairman Paul Ryan. Ryan’s plan gives baby boomers the option of private coverage in a plan that works much like the one members of Congress have today.
Under Ryan’s plan, beginning in 2022 beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice among Medicare-approved private health options. As the Congressional Budget Office notes, plans would have to issue insurance to all people eligible for Medicare who applied.
Without a serious course adjustment, Medicare is at risk of becoming a third-rate, price-controlled program that rations a lower quality of care through waiting lines and other restrictions. If the current model isn’t reformed, then we will either need to continue to pour deficit-funded dollars into the program or raise taxes to levels that would topple the economy as millions of baby boomers hit retirement.
Albeit painful, these facts are real and will not simply go away with time.
--John F. Kouten