Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Medicare - Popular and Successful

Even though the economy continues to limp along in the longest running, most anemic "recovery" in history, the political spin cycle tries to focus the voters on other things. In much the same way as a magician seeks to distract their audience from what is really happening, politicians would rather talk about anything OTHER THAN their track record.

Hence the Medicare debate.

No doubt Medicare is in trouble. It is paying out more in benefits than it takes in via payroll taxes . . . and there is no money in the "trust fund".

In spite of this, some folks tout Medicare as the "most popular and successful" program ever to come out of Washington.

Popular, yes.

Successful, no.

Unless you define success as one that manipulates provider payments to the point of causing most providers to lose money when they treat Medicare beneficiaries and have to cost shift those losses to those with private insurance.

If you define success as a plan that spends more than it takes in, and has no money in reserve for future claims, then Medicare is indeed a resounding success.

But most of us who live on a budget know we cannot spend more than we earn, or accumulate debt that is 7x our annual income and expect this to be sustainable.

Question: What do you call Obamacare's $716 billion cut in Medicare spending during the next decade?
Answer: A good start - and not because seniors don't deserve their Medicare benefits.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) achieves those spending cuts over 10 years by decreasing payments to Medicare providers. 

Reuters, "Where Medicare could save money", August, 2012
Save money for whom?
The taxpayer?
Yes . . . and no.
If seniors on Medicare are taxpayers then the answer is no. All this solution does is shift the cost of care from the federal government to those who use Medicare services.
Do the folks in DC really think docs and hospitals will voluntarily take a 30% pay cut for the good of the team?
The Reuters article then goes on to compare how much the US spends on health care vs. other countries. That straw man argument is manipulated and meaningless.
It then regurgitates the other ways to save Medicare.
Pay for results, not treatment . . . spend dollars wisely . . . eliminate waste, fraud and abuse  , , , pay hospitals less.
The only argument they offer that can and will reduce the total cost of care is lifestyle changes.
Medicare is a popular program but only an idiot would consider it successful, unless you are wearing beer goggles.
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