Rep. Bill Thomas Calls on Congress To Address Both Medicare, Social Security Reform
Congress now has "an opportunity to adjust" Medicare and Social Security benefits and the payroll tax system all at the same time, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said on Tuesday at a National Journal symposium, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to Thomas, Congress should consider revising Medicare as it considers reforms for Social Security because Medicare spending is increasing at a faster rate.
Thomas "suggested that savings for long-term care would be more coherent if they accompanied general retirement savings," the Times reports. Thomas said, "My hope is that as we look at what we're doing, we will address the problems of today and tomorrow. I hope that we don't fight the political and ideological wars of yesterday. But it doesn't look promising to me so far, based upon at least the beginning."
Thomas "warned Democrats ... that they risked eliminating themselves from a role in the forthcoming debate if they played the issue strictly for short-term political gain," the Times reports. "If you start with the statement that your goal is to sabotage whatever we try to do, to try to put you in the majority (in control of Congress) in the next election, then I am forced to try to solve the problem on a partisanship basis," he said, adding, "I want as many ideas as possible on the table. We have the time. We have to be more creative" (Havemann/Simon, Los Angeles Times, 1/19).
In related news, U.S. residents are more concerned about health costs than they are about Social Security, according to a series of USA Today/CNN/Gallup polls taken in December 2004 and January, USA Today reports. Further, residents ranked protecting the environment higher than curbing medical malpractice lawsuits, "the first major legislative proposal the president plans to pursue this year," USA Today reports (Page, USA Today, 1/19).
The survey also notes that 49% of people in 2001 predicted that President Bush would ensure the "long-term strength" of Medicare during his first term, and 28% of those surveyed in 2004 said that he has accomplished the goal. Forty-two percent of the public believes Bush will do so in his second term, according to the more recent survey.
In addition, 46% of residents predicted in 2001 that Bush would improve the U.S. health system, and 26% of those surveyed now say the president has done that. Forty-four percent of people in 2004 said that Bush would make such improvements within the next four years, according to the survey (USA Today graphic, 1/19).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Tuesday reported on Bush's second term agenda, including his goal of medical malpractice reform. The segment includes comments from David Brady, deputy director of Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and Bush (Gonyea, "All Things Considered," NPR, 1/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.