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Middle-Aged Medicare

July 01, 2011
12:55 pm

Medicare turns 45 years old today.

It’s an opportune time to reflect upon how many families have been helped by the program, how many seniors have gained a sense of security that being hospitalized wouldn’t leave them impoverished.  And, with the creation of the Part D prescription drug program, millions more are able to afford the medications that can keep them healthy.

But this birthday is also a time to ask questions about what lies ahead for future Medicare beneficiaries.  The political rhetoric is not reassuring.  If you get on the computer and Google “Happy Birthday Medicare,” you find a host of interest group sites blasting away at proposals aimed at reforming Medicare to achieve long-term solvency.  Instead of a meaningful and thoughtful dialogue, it’s all about the need to gain political advantage. Look at the press statements issued on this occasion by dozens of members of Congress and you see the same thing, a harsh condemnation of reform ideas and a pledge to preserve Medicare as it is.

Drawing that line in the sand, however, does a disservice to the Medicare program and to those who count on it being there for them.  The Medicare trustees report has made it clear that the program’s window of solvency is shrinking.  And, even those who say they want to preserve the status quo, aren’t actually doing so.  The Affordable Care Act includes billions of dollars in Medicare cuts as well as the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which will be charged with slashing Medicare spending.

When we reach the middle-aged stage of our lives, it’s a time to reassess and to make the lifestyle changes necessary to assure we enjoy many more birthdays.  We have to stop kidding ourselves that we can continue along the same path we traveled in our youth.  Isn’t it time for the political class to stop kidding the American people that Medicare can enjoy 45 more birthdays without undergoing meaningful reform?

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