Saturday, December 29, 2007

Is the VA Model a fix for Medicare?

Waco Tribune OPED on Medicare fix based on VA Healthcare model

Editorial: Need to cut Medicare costs

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Not only is Social Security under threat because it is underfunded and Congress refuses to act, it also is threatened by Medicare.

Social Security’s funding problems are big. Medicare’s funding problems are significantly bigger.

Medicare’s problems threaten to overwhelm the entire federal budget if Congress fails to act.

What’s worse, the separate Social Security and Medicare programs are actually intertwined.

Seniors who receive Medicare must pay monthly premiums that are deducted from their monthly Social Security checks.

Due to the runaway health care costs, Medicare premiums increase each year above the cost of living adjustments added to Social Security.

Financial writer Scott Burns recently reported that economist Alicia Munnell calculated the out-of-pocket expenditures to cover Medicare “premiums, deductibles and co-pays for parts B and D of Medicare will gobble 29 percent of the average Social Security benefit check this year.”

Scott reported that another calculation “indicates that a worker who is 30 today can expect premiums, deductibles and co-pays for parts B and D of Medicare to absorb about 50 percent of his initial Social Security benefit.”

Without congressional action, out-of-pocket Medicare costs will exceed Social Security benefits for today’s newborns. At that point, Medicare will have eliminated Social Security.

Congress needs to rein in Medicare costs by ensuring that the program stops paying higher than necessary costs for drugs, products, supplies and services. Government auditors estimate fraud in the Medicare program adds up to billions of dollars annually. The Government Accountability Office lists Medicare as a “high-risk” program due to fraud and excessive costs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a good model for Medicare reform. It controls costs by using its purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for drugs, equipment and supplies. It cuts costs and boosts efficiency by utilizing electronic health records. It offers veterans programs that promote health to prevent costly illnesses and diseases.

Congress needs to make Medicare a high priority concern.

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