MEDICARE REFORM: More Pressing Than Social Security
Writing in today's Washington Times, former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont warns of the danger of reforming Social Security while ignoring the even-larger problem of Medicare insolvency. Du Pont argues that Medicare is plagued by four unique problems that do not affect Social Security:
- While Social Security will not go bankrupt until 2013, Medicare's outlays already exceed its revenue.
- Medicare payments go to service providers, who decide how the money is spent, while Social Security payments go to beneficiaries, who decide how to spend it themselves.
- There is no hard cap on Medicare payments, while Social Security payments are fixed.
- "Every Medicare beneficiary has his or her own definition of medical care needs, whereas every Social Security beneficiary has the same definition of what money is."
When today's eighteen-year-olds retire, Medicare will consume 16 to 20 cents in taxes out of every worker's dollar. The government will be forced to "[s]queeze the doctors, hospitals and other providers of health care," while rationing patient care to an even greater extent. But, du Pont argues, "[t]his approach overlooks, and harms, the most important element: the patient." His solution is to scale back Medicare to a system of catastrophic health insurance "instead of simply prepaying for health care." He concludes: "A vastly scaled-down Medicare program could be the insurer of last resort. Health care decisions should be in the hands of the patients themselves, aided by their doctors" (12/23). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.