Hey, Bush: What About The Medicare/Medicaid Crisis?

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Why is President Bush pushing for Social Security reform which would add to current and future deficits given the fact that there is no Social Security crisis today, while the Medicare and Medicaid programs pose an extremely serious economic and financial threat now? There is a deep schism occurring between the nation's state governors and the Whitehouse. Regardless of party, the nation's governors are challenging the Whitehouse's proposed cuts to Medicaid and lack of action on Medicare.

First, let's define what we are talking about. The Medicare Website states :

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers Medicare, the nation's largest health insurance program, which covers nearly 40 million Americans. Medicare is a Health Insurance Program for people 65 years of age and older, some disabled people under 65 years of age, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure treated with dialysis or a transplant).
And The Medicaid Website states :
Medicaid is a program that pays for medical assistance for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources. This program became law in 1965 and is jointly funded by the Federal and State governments (including the District of Columbia and the Territories) to assist States in providing medical long-term care assistance to people who meet certain eligibility criteria. Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with limited income.

There are a few major converging factors causing the crisis. The same demographics problems which will plague the Social Security system sometime between 2042 and 2052 will stress the sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid: a growing number of beneficiaries and fewer contributors. In addition, last year's drop in real wages for working Americans is putting more Americans into the means test eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid. One direct consequence of our nation failing to raise the minimum wage is large numbers of working Americans falling into that income range that fails to provide for private health care insurance or sustainable income in retirement, let alone personal savings. This problem is made worse by the fact that a growing number of aging workers are picking up minimum wage jobs at Wal-Mart's and Home Depot's across the country which is seriously affecting their ability to save anything for retirement or provide health insurance coverage when they do retire.

And the last, but probably greatest, contributor to the Medicare and Medicaid crisis is the unstoppable growth of health care costs. Len Nichols states (PDF):

In 2001, health care spending grew by 10% per person, the first double-digit increase in more than a decade.1 Experts on national health care costs are forecasting 7% to 9% annual growth in health insurance premiums for the next decade. ... Health care spending comprises 14% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Some projections indicate by the year 2025, health care costs will reach 19% of GDP. That means 1 out of every 5 dollars spent in America will go to a doctor or medical staff, hospital, health industry investor or administrator. Currently it is estimated that 1/3 of all health care dollars spent go to administration, and only 2/3 go for actual treatment of patients. Republicans want to claim that trial lawyers are the blame, and the Democrats want to claim that the insurance companies are the blame. While there is a kernel of truth to both claims, the truth about rising health care cost causes are far more complicated and diverse than such simple politically expedient explanations. But, that is the subject for another article.

Robert Tanner, AP writer had this to report about the impasse between President Bush and the nation's governors:

But consensus was elusive on either sweeping support or sweeping reforms. So far, governors agreed only to oppose the cuts and tentatively embrace elements of the budget plan that aim to drive down drug prices and discourage the middle-class elderly from relying on Medicaid for nursing home care.

Rather than spending dollars and political capital revamping Social Security, Bush should consider deeper changes to Medicaid, the nation's single largest health care program, several governors said.

"From where I sit, Medicaid and Medicare are much more pressing issues," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.

It appears to me, that America's form of government is incapable of managing the really big problems facing the majority of Americans today and in the future. Our politicians put nonsense pork barrel spending projects for local districts ahead of major issues like health care, retirement with dignity, and quality education for all of America's youth. When our politicians can find 1/3 of a trillion dollars to go free some Iraqi population from their dictator, but, can't even begin to agree how they are going to assist 50 million poor Americans in obtaining quality health care, our political system clearly has no integrity nor sense of responsibility when it comes to the needs of the people they represent.

But, it is not just the politicians. It is indeed the American people themselves to blame. They prefer identifying with the rhetoric of their favorite political team rather then fire the lot in the hopes of getting responsible leadership back into the halls of our government. America as a once great nation is in decline by a whole host of measures. So many other nations now rank higher than the US on a number of measures. Yet, Americans don't want to hear that. They will defend their title of "greatest nation on earth" long after America has passed its point of no return toward third world status. The only hope Americans have is with a groundswell grassroots anti-incumbency movement that continues to kick politicians out of office until real solutions backed by real consensus amongst politicians is achieved. But, small glimmer of hope too seems to be fading as evidenced by the returns of the last Presidential election. I don't believe it is premature to begin mourning the loss of America's greatness.

3 Comments

I think the only hope Americans have is with a groundswell grassroots anti-incumbency movement that continues to kick politicians out of office until real solutions backed by real consensus amongst politicians is achieve the contributor to the Medicare and Medicaid crisis is the unstoppable growth of health care costs.

Susan R., I couldn't agree with you more. Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy, or VOID, is an organization working to bring about these vitally needed changes in the only peaceful way possible, at the ballot box.

Health care is a great importance to many individuals and we need to work on improving health care for all.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on February 28, 2005 10:49 AM.

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