Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Good Thing Cheney's Not on Medicare

In his latest commentary, Mark Hyman praises the fact that Medicare now covers a device that will supposedly lower the death rate due to cardiac arrest and be a more cost efficient option than using prescription drugs to achieve the same benefit.

Of course, as a member of the liberal elite, I’m outraged by the very idea of healthy hearts. Arterial plaque has rights too! Who are we to get in the way of its chosen lifestyle? What a disgusting display of human-centrism! Moreover, who’s to say what defines a “healthy heart” anyway? Keep your rigid definitions off of my cardiovascular system, if you please! Strength through diversity!

Sorry—you can only hear so much nonsense from the Right about how anyone who questions the Iraq war hates America and anyone who doesn’t think a flat tax is a peachy keen idea is a Marxist before you start performing according to stereotype.

In all seriousness, though, there’ s nothing wrong with new regulations that help fund productive treatments via Medicare. The problem is that Medicare itself is in need of resuscitation. Thanks to the Bush administration, it may not matter how forward-looking the Medicare regulations are. The program might be out of money.

As with Social Security, the Bush administration is attempting to dismantle an incredibly successful service program under the cover of “reform.” In both cases, Bush wants to give handouts to Wall Street operators through privatization. With Social Security, the administration has concocted a non-existent crisis to justify this huge payoff to its allies. In the case of Medicare, however, there is a real problem looming. But the even bigger problem is that Bush’s plan makes it worse, not better.

Remember that the Bush administration has a less-than-stellar record when it comes to dealing with Medicare. They threatened their own expert on Medicare expenses that he’d be fired if he told the truth about cost estimates involving the prescription drug benefit. Moreover, keep in mind that
conservatives disagree with the very principle on which Medicare is based: healthcare is an essential service that we need to provide to those who need it the most. Is it any wonder, then, that the Bush proposals on Medicare systematically do harm to the system they are advertised as “saving”? Everything’s going according to plan.

This excerpt from and editorial that appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gives you the specifics: there’ll have to be fewer benefits or higher taxes. Guess which one the Bush administration will choose.

President Bush has insisted the Social Security program is already in
crisis, although it is backed by a trust fund big enough to support full
benefits until 2042.In comparison, the Medicare trust fund that covers hospital
expenses will be exhausted by 2019, according to the most recent report of the
program's trustees. Add in doctors' bills, and Medicare expenditures will exceed
Social Security's by 2024.

Marilyn Moon, director of the health program at the American Institutes for
Research, who has served on Medicare's board of trustees, said seniors should
get ready for proposals to change the program in ways they may not like.The Bush
administration "will require people to go into private plans or pay a lot more
for traditional Medicare," Moon predicted. "They'll do it because they want to
avoid taxes, and won't be able to find reasonable solutions that totally avoid
taxes unless they are quite restrictive for both current and future

David Cutler, a professor of economics at Harvard University, believes it
is possible to reform Medicare without reducing benefits."The only way you can
do it . . . is you must raise taxes," Cutler said.
. . .

"I think they'll cut services to pay for the drug benefit" that goes into
effect in 2006, said Bob Moffit, a conservative Medicare expert at the Heritage Foundation. Medicare, Moffit concluded, "is a full-scale mess."

So even intellectually honest conservatives admit Medicare is in dire straits. Better get that pacemaker while you can.

And that’s The Counterpoint


At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right on the money Ted!

The fact is that recent legislation passed by the Neo-Facists in control of our government actually increased the financial strain on the Medicare system.

To increase the bottom line of corporations and medical insurance providers, they are being allowed to push all retirees off their insurance and into Medicare when they reach age 65 regardless of your retirement plan.

These are the people who are going to need the most medical care and the most expensive care. This shifts the lion's share of the costs over to Medicare.

When you couple that with the corporate welfare given to the drug companies with the presciption drug bill just passed, the funding problems with Medicare become obvious.

I think that this is an attempt by this administration to destroy Medicare, just as privatization is an attempt to destroy Social Security.

Thanks for what you do Ted and keep Bustin' Hymen!

Mike B. in SC


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