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Archive for Sunday, January 1, 2012

Medicare debate all about the baby boomers

January 1, 2012

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— Baby boomers take note: Medicare as your parents have known it is headed for big changes no matter who wins the White House in 2012. You may not like it, but you might have to accept it.

Dial down the partisan rhetoric and surprising similarities emerge from competing policy prescriptions by President Barack Obama and leading Republicans such as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Limit the overall growth of Medicare spending? It’s in both approaches.

Squeeze more money from upper-income retirees and some in the middle-class? Ditto.

Raise the eligibility age? That too, if the deal is right.

With more than 1.5 million baby boomers a year signing up for Medicare, the program’s future is one of the most important economic issues for anyone now 50 or older. Health care costs are the most unpredictable part of retirement, and Medicare remains an exceptional deal for retirees, who can reap benefits worth far more than the payroll taxes they paid in during their careers.

“People would like to have what they used to have. What they don’t seem to understand is that it’s already changed,” said Gail Wilensky, a former Medicare administrator and adviser to Republicans. “Medicare as we have known it is not part of our future.”

Two sets of numbers underscore that point.

First, Medicare’s giant trust fund for inpatient care is projected to run out of money in 2024. At that point, the program will collect only enough payroll taxes to pay 90 percent of benefits.

Second, researchers estimate that 20 to 30 percent of the more than $500 billion that Medicare now spends annually is wasted on treatments and procedures of little or no benefit to patients.

Taken together, that means policymakers can’t let Medicare keep running on autopilot and they’ll look for cuts before any payroll tax increases.

Privatization is the biggest divide between Democrats and Republicans.

Currently about 75 percent of Medicare recipients are in the traditional government-run, fee-for-service program and 25 percent are in private insurance plans known as Medicare Advantage.

Ryan’s original approach, part of a budget plan the House passed in the spring, would have put 100 percent of future retirees into private insurance. His latest plan, developed with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would keep traditional Medicare as an option, competing with private plans.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

Most of the problems that plague Medicare can be traced to a "healthcare" system that's designed to deliver profits, not healthcare.

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budman 2 years, 8 months ago

Or that people are living longer and ailments that were untreatable now have treatments and more people than ever are enrolled and there's been no increase in funding to support the soon to be bankrupt system.

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Jock Navels 2 years, 8 months ago

just another bozo is correct. As it stands now, Medicare will pay out an average of about 500,000 per person. 307 million people times a half a million dollars is 150 trillion. if you add up all the wealth in the US you don't come anywhere near 150 trillion. If medicare continues as it is, eventually doctors and others in the medical professions will end up holding ALL the wealth in the country, the rest of us will have NOTHING. And guess what...we will still die, usually of health complications. The solutions are tough...end of life are needs to be rethought. Spending a couple hundred grand for an operation on a 92 year old person, the result of which is to prolong her life by 2 months with zero points in the quality of life column is not sustainable. But it is profitable.

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budman 2 years, 8 months ago

You sound like my church. Whenever there's some problem or issue, they can always trace it back to one of the seven deadly sins, and I see here you have found the healthcare system a sinner of Greed.

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observer25 2 years, 8 months ago

The example healthcare decision that jocknavals cites is not driven by profits, as jocknavals implies. The decision to prolong life at any cost is a choice that many patients and families make. The fear of death drives that type of decision. jocknavals is right on the point that these social norms need to be rethought. In addition to end-of-life healthcare decisions, we as a society also need to decide to hold people accountable for making unhealthy life choices that result in chronic and expensive health problems. The idea that we can do whatever we want and expect others to pay for it is not right and our current trend toward that kind of thinking needs to be reversed. Otherwise, we are going to bankrupt ourselves.

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