MEDICARE: Reform Commission Debates Cost Estimates
The bipartisan Medicare commission was told yesterday that Medicare spending "could soar as much as $760 billion above current estimates by 2030," the Hartford Courant reports. A five-member task force presented the projection to the full 17-member commission, spurring a debate about the group's intent. Fearing that the huge cost projections "could drive policy decisions," Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) said, "I did not come here to reduce the level of benefits for our beneficiaries beyond what is absolutely necessary." Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said that if the commission's emphasis on Medicare's solvency endured, he "was not sure if he wanted to continue to participate." Attempting to "calm ... ruffled Democrats," commission chair Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) said "other task forces are working on the quality and availability of Medicare" and that the commission will not focus solely on the issue of solvency.
Best And Worst Case Scenarios
The task force, led by former Clinton administration economic adviser Laura D'Andrea Tyson, compared the Medicare trustees' current estimate, "that spending in 2030 would be about $2.2 trillion," with a second projection "that assumed that program savings Congress approved last year would not be as high as currently projected." The second projection put Medicare spending in 2030 at $2.9 trillion. The difference between the best case and worst case estimates is "about three- quarters of a trillion dollars in 2030 ... more than double Medicare's current annual spending." Tyson said, "There is always uncertainty in making long-range forecasts." She said the task force agreed "unanimously" to present both estimates to the commission: "We can accept, among ourselves, [that] this is a reasonable range" (MacDonald, 6/2). The Medicare commission is holding meetings again today. Click here to view the schedule.