- Posted September 2, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Medicare Moves Up to Core Issues
With the nomination of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan for vice president on the Republican Party ticket, Medicare has become a focal issue right up there with the economy, jobs and the national debt. While throughout the 2012 campaign Medicare has been seen as one of the issues, it flounder around the middle of the pack until Ryan's selection by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
On January 1 of this year, I did a report that asked this quesstion: What to Do with Medicare?
Now as we wait the start of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday and relax from the Republican National Convention which ended Thursday, perhaps it is a good time to once again revisit Medicare.
The Medicare program is accepted by all to be one in dire need of adjustments and perhpas a complete overhaul.
The funding of Medicare seems to be the primary concern by both Democrats and Republicans as well as on the mind and in the talk of independents.
Medicare is one of those "hybrid" programs where funding is not 100% from tax dollars flowing into Washington D.C. Members of the program also pay a monthly premium for inclusion in the government-managed insurance program.
The amount of the premium and who should pay more and who should pay less is at the heart of Medicare talks. In addition there are fraud claims that continue to plague Medicare and the ever-increasing health care costs. Compounding all of this is the number of "baby boomers" retiring and enrolling in Medicare.
Political campaigns like to point out the differences in approach taken by both Democrats and Republicans. But how much of that is partisan hype and how much is reality?
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.
No one on either side of the aisle disagrees that Medicare must be taken back to the drafting table for a rework. What is in disagreement is how to change the system and yet remain a safety net for millions.
"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.
We are hearing what the members of Congress, the President and Romney think about Medicare and its problems. But...what do the voters, the workers and the enrollees think about the system?
Should Medicare be completely privatized or be partially privatized and partially government supported?
Should those currently on Medicare be allowed to stay in the current program, but new enrollees have to opt for a privatized version?
Should future retirees be made to choose to participate in individual health care accounts or have no safety net?
Should there be an option for privatization or the current system for future retirees to choose?
What is the most viable plan to correct the acknowledged pitfalls with the current Medicare system?
From the Cornfield, I hope that readers will respond with their thoughts, feelings and ideas on the Medicare system.