Election 2012: Medicare versus ObamaCare
September 13, 2012
On August 12, Stephanie Cutter, President Obama’s deputy campaign manager, told TV viewers, “You bet Obama cut Medicare by $700 billion!”
Actually, Ms. Cutter (folks, I did not make up this name) erred in that the cuts of which she spoke so proudly were $716 billion. But hey, what’s $16 billion to seniors needing Medicare?
Now, please repeat after me: Medicare is not a welfare program. Medicare is funded by a combination of payroll taxes paid by employees and employers, premiums users pay for certain parts of Medicare and by general-fund tax revenues paid by the 50 percent of us who pay federal income taxes. If you live to age 65, you begin to get some of your money back in the form of medical care.
In the context of the current presidential election, is it important whether Medicare lives or dies? Let’s check the numbers.
There are about 41 million seniors receiving Medicare benefits and another 61 million baby boomers who, at age 65, will start receiving Medicare benefits. That’s 102 million Americans who have a deep and abiding interest in the continued existence and improvement of Medicare benefits.
But concerns about the future of Medicare involve more than just today’s seniors and baby boomers. The preservation of Medicare is a multi-generational issue because Medicare makes it possible for the young mothers and fathers of today to be able to save for the education of their youngsters, or pay on their mortgage, or continue their own education rather than have to set aside savings to care for the increasing health-care needs of grandpa and grandma.
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But is Medicare perfect? No. According to forbes.com, unless steps are taken to make Medicare more fiscally sound, Medicare will run out of money by the year 2024. So now, this election comes down to the question of trying to sustain and improve Medicare or replacing Medicare entirely with ObamaCare.
Sensing an opportunity to sell more supplemental insurance, AARP, as usual, has thrown its members under the bus. Just like AARP did in 1988 when AARP endorsed curtailments of Medicare that were so unpopular that 16 months later the House voted 360-66 and the Senate voted 99-0 to restore the Medicare cuts.
For Americans over age 55, the GOP plan maintains Medicare just the way it is now. For Americans under age 55, the Republicans say new funding mechanisms are needed so that the life of Medicare can be extended to 2024 and beyond. Voters who refuse to accept changes as to how Medicare is funded will just have to hang their hats on ObamaCare and hope bureaucrats like those who run the Postal Service and Amtrak know what they are doing.
Some Medicare costs could be reduced if physicians were not forced to order sometimes unneeded medical tests for fear of frivolous lawsuits filed by those creepy tort lawyers advertising on TV.
In 2011, the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee reported out H.R. 966, The Lawsuit Reduction Act, which supports meritorious lawsuits but would impose sanctions against attorneys who file meritless lawsuits. Knowing the Democrat-controlled Senate will not pass curbs on trial lawyers, the bill sits on file in hopes that come January, 2013, a GOP-controlled Senate will send it to a Republican president for signature. Clearly, a lot rides on Nov. 6.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.