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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Raising Medicare Eligibility Age Won't Help the Deficit

Raising Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 is a cost shift that won't help the nation's $16,376 trillion deficit.  

Budget grumping Republicans in the US House support the Medicare age increase, all the while they each have health insurance coverage.  Nevertheless, they're hoarding a budget bargaining chip, one wrongly put forth by the Obama administration, thereby putting deserving Americans' health care coverage at risk for those who must wait an additional two years to receive a benefit they've paid for in advance.

Unfortunately, the purpose of  this political posturing is designed to cut a tax deal, but it won't help the nation's deficit.

Medicare is not responsible for the nation's deficit! Medicare is a health insurance benefit paid for by beneficiaries and guaranteed by the federal government.  Raising the beneficiaries' age imposes a delay penalty on those who pay premiums for their coverage and impacts on providers who support important jobs in the health care industries. It's a negative double dipping fiscal tactic intended to harm beneficiaries and providers of health care.  

President Obama is holding the increase in Medicare eligibility age out as a carrot to US House Republicans, something for them to nibble on, as they ponder a compromise on how to increase tax rates on the rich. Hello? Rich people don't need federally guaranteed health insurance coverage. Obviously, it makes no sense to increase the Medicare eligibility age on senior citizens, who need the coverage beginning at age 65, while the rich ponder whether or not they can afford to pay more taxes. Medicare should not be a  bargaining chip for increasing taxes on the rich.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi calls the Medicare eligibility age change a "trophy".

Nancy Pelosi says GOP wants to increase Medicare eligibility as a political trophy as a reward for raising tax rates on the rich.

Pelosi says, “....First of all, show me the money. I don’t even know why that is something that people think is going to produce money. Well, what are we going to do with people between 65 and 67? Why is that – where is the money, show me the money there. But it’s not even the right thing to do first and foremost. But is it a trophy that the Republicans want? Is that the trophy that they want in order to do what is right to raise – to raise the rates for the wealthiest people in our country?”

Although Medicare needs reforms, the problem is more about the rising cost of health care than with the federal subsidy provided to insure beneficiaries who receive the care. Reducing the cost of health care can begin by monitoring the excessive salaries paid to the Chief Executive Officers of provider corporations. Another cost reducing initiative is to monitor the often daunting list of laboratory tests provided to Medicare beneficiaries.  Reducing unnecessary utilization and provider administrative costs will help stabilize the reimbursements to many providers while hardly impacting on the beneficiaries access to care.

Other cost reducing initiatives includes reducing readmissions to hospitals and emergency admissions by reimbursing more home health and hospice care.

Increasing Medicare's eligibility age is a terrible budget negotiating tactic, because real people will be negatively impacted, as a result.  

There's virtually no rationale to this "deal" except to offer a political red herring, intended to mislead Republicans into believing they "won" something, in exchange for taxing wealthy people.  If the Obama administration gives Republicans the increase in Medicare eligibility age, it will be as a red herring nailed on a trophy plaque, symbolic of an ugly concession, but of no human or fiscal value.

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