Posted on October 26, 2009Medicare Revisited
Medicare is a great program for senior citizens. It is a very popular government-run entitlement. Many old people rely on it for their health care. It now includes a prescription drug benefit, which also has proven to be popular.
It is so popular that the many Democrats have said that they want to extend Medicare for all. If it is so popular for old people, why wouldn’t it work for young people, the theory goes.
The problem with that theory is that Medicare is not all that it is cracked up to be.
First, it is going broke. Earlier this year, the Obama Adminstration said that the Medicare Trust Fund would be going broke by 2017. Coupled with the strains associated with Social Security Trust Fund, which is also growing broke, the simple fact of the matter is that we can afford to add additional costs to a government that can’t pay its bills now.
Second, it is rife with corruption. According to most estimates, Medicare loses about $60 billion through waste, fraud and abuse every year. For some reason, it is easier and more fun to rip off a government program than it is to rip off a private insurance plan. God knows that people like to rip off insurance companies too, but it is more fun and easier to rip off the government.
Third, reimbursement rates are so low with Medicare that most really good doctors either don’t take Medicare patients or if they do, they make their patients take all kinds of unnecessary tests so they can make up the difference. Reimbursement rates are already too low. They don’t reflect the realities of the marketplace or the high costs of frivolous medical lawsuits. Some believe that by having Medicare for all, we can somehow control costs. That is nonsense. More government involvement in setting prices will either have a dramatic impact on private sector costs or (more likely) have a dramatic impact on the overall health care quality that we enjoy in this country.
If we want to really have a discussion about fixing health care in this country, we should discuss fixing Medicare so that it doesn’t go broke, doesn’t waste billions of dollars every month and that it doesn’t screw doctors out of their proper reimbursements.
Medicare is very popular for older Americans. On that, there is little disagreement. But what is great for seniors is not necessarily great for the long-term fiscal health of this country.
We should fix Medicare before we even think of expanding it.