Now that campaigning is finished, it is incumbent on our elected government to face up to Medicare’s problems and implement thoughtful solutions. Pretending that Medicare is financially solvent while ignoring the facts about the declining acceptance of Medicare and the future of health care access for seniors under the ACA is worse than misguided policy, it is outright dishonesty. Instead of fixating on ideological differences, the first step is to agree about the urgency of the situation, so that we can keep Medicare for the long term in a form consistent with America’s core.
Regardless of the outcome of the 2012 elections, the facts about Medicare have not changed.
Medicare is spiraling into bankruptcy, owing to both the demographics of America and the realities about health care. Every year for the next two decades, roughly 3 to 4 million seniors become newly eligible for Medicare as the baby boomer generation ages. Elected officials of both parties do not dispute the seriousness of the problem described in the 2012 Medicare Trustees Report, which estimated Medicare’s unfunded obligations to be almost $38 trillion and a hospital insurance trust fund that will become insolvent in 2024.
That outlook does not even consider the bigger picture over the next decades coming as a consequence of the fantastic advances in modern medicine. As the newest “Global Burden of Disease” report in the Lancet just acknowledged, with increasing longevity come two very expensive consequences: more people are surviving to die of chronic diseases found only in old age. They require expensive drugs, diagnostics, and hospital care; and more people are living with disorders that don’t kill them, but that produce disability and reduced health.
An increasing proportion of doctors are already not accepting Medicare patients, and the primary reason is low payment for services. A 2008 report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent federal panel, said that 29 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who were looking for a primary care doctor had a problem finding one. In the 2008 HSC national survey, more than 20 percent of primary care doctors accepted no new Medicare patients (only 4.5 percent accepted no new privately insured patients) and about 40 percent of primary care doctors and 20 percent of specialists refused most new Medicare patients. Today, in some states, more than half of doctors already do not accept new Medicare patients.
Read More at Forbes . By Scott W. Atlas.
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