Monday, June 13, 2011

Conservatives Still in Medicare Trouble, Retiring Boomers Increase Costs

Conservative Republicans continue to face tough questioning at home concerning their support for Paul Ryan's budget plan which replaces Medicare.  U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) "said the proposed budget proposal from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was only a starting off point in a debate over federal spending.  He said he voted for the budget proposal in order to start off the discussion on debt reduction, and then called on the U.S. Senate to present a budget proposal after defeating the Ryan budget."  Mr. Lance faced a liberal leaning crowd during a town hall and found himself reacting defensively.

And, Conservatives Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty seem to be arguing about who is MORE conservative when it comes to Medicare.  "Santorum said Sunday that the government does a poor job of controlling the costs of the massive health care program.  (He echoes Health and Human Services officials during the Bush administration, who were fond of saying that Medicare is 'a big dumb payer.')  The private sector, not the government, should be controlling those costs, he said."

"On Fox News Sunday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he wants Medicare to stop paying for health care procedures and to give people incentives to get healthier."  While Democrats do not disagree with the need to control costs or improve effectiveness, they constantly are on the defensive when Republicans press for extreme changes.  Democrats can't seem to find the nerve to be honest with the American people that Medicare does need to change.  It has suffered from eligibility- and benefit-creep over many years.

Recognizing Medicare's problems and trying out ideas for solutions is a good thing.  Some ideas we might like and others perhaps not so much.  It's good when the discussion is solution-focused rather than political.  This author guesses that "the most likely fix [for Medicare] is some sort of hard-fought compromise that includes benefit cuts, such as increasing the age for eligibility, now 65; some private insurance options; and payroll tax increases.  Any compromise would likely involve spending cuts, which would lower reimbursements for health care providers."

He builds this conclusion by noting: "As tens of millions of baby boomers begin to retire, the strains of funding Medicare, the government’s health insurance program for the elderly, will only grow over the next decade.  Combined with skyrocketing costs of health care in general, economists say Medicare spending, left unchecked, will become unsustainable."  Retiring boomers and rising health costs are a frightening combination, and "by 2020, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, Medicare’s main trust fund will be effectively drained, requiring a strict 'pay as you go'’ system financed by payroll taxes and money squeezed from other federal programs, assuming the current structure of Medicare is kept intact."  Lower reimbursement for health care providers already has provider up in arms.


No comments:

Post a Comment