Despite Democrats’ push for ‘Medicare-for-all’, Medicare will become insolvent in 2026 and Social Security will become insolvent in 2034, according to a program trustee report. Unless lawmakers act, Medicare and Social Security will be unable to cover benefits initially promised by the federal government.
According to recent polls, healthcare will likely dominate conversation during the 2020 election.
Medicare, not to be mistaken for Medicaid, serves people mostly over 65 years of age, whatever their income, but also serves younger disabled people and dialysis patients. Medicare started in 1965 when former president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the H.R. 6675 act in Independence, Missouri. At age 65, around retirement, most people become eligible for federal health insurance.
Hailey Sanders, a junior psychology pre-med at Georgia State, is one of the younger patients taking advantage of Medicare.
“I have Grave’s disease, a hyperthyroid problem, and have to see a specialist. I look at the spreadsheet of the cost and Medicare covers all of it and I only have $20 left to pay.”
Sanders’ financial aid concern echoes recent polls on healthcare and the near 60 million people who take advantage of Medicare’s comprehensive aid, divided into four sections: Part A covering inpatient hospital insurance, Part B covering outpatient hospital care and physician services, Part C covering Medicare Advantage plans and Part D covering drug insurance.
“If I didn’t have Medicare, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford a specialist. I probably would not be going to the hospital to treat my Grave’s disease and like so many people I would be doing it by myself, just toughing it out,” Sanders said.
Medicare’s Part A Hospital insurance (HI) accounts for about 40 percent of $710 billion in HI program spending in 2017, causing this section’s insolvency most rapidly.
According to James C. Capretta from MarketWatch, resolving the program would require raising payroll tax rate from today’s combined employer-employee rate of 12.4 percent taxable payroll to 15.2 percent. Lawmakers would also need to cut Social Security benefits by about 17 percent.
The aging generation of Baby Boomers contribute to Medicare’s predicament. Around 3 million Baby Boomers will reach retirement age every year for the next twenty, increasing the need for Medicare which causes more financial strain on the program.
For Sanders and many others who benefit from Medicare, the growing Baby Boomer population paired with long-term costs only cause part of the problem. Increases in prescription drug prices and medical advances contribute as well.
According to CNN, Medicare recently spent $2 billion for one drug as the manufacturer paid doctors several million. Acthar Gel, a drug known for treating rare infant seizure disorder, provided opportunity for more than 80 percent of doctors filing Medicare claims in 2016 to receive money or other perks from the drug makers. Prednisone, a steroid alternative, cost around $2.50 for a bottle of pills compared to $39,000 for three vials of Acthar.
As Medicare’s recent purchase indicates, the unpredictability of healthcare costs paired with high-priced breakthrough cures, which regularly outpace overall economic growth, increases insolvencies.
PRESENT GOVERNMENT ACTION?
Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March 2010 to counteract deficits. Payment cuts worked through the “productivity adjustment factor,” measuring economy-wide improvement in outset per worker. James C. Capretta from MarketWatch suggests that if inflation and hospital costs rise higher than productivity, then hospitals get an inflation bump from the difference. The compounding effect creates one of the largest payment-rate reductions in the program’s history. Actuaries warn this method could lead to elderly health facility treatment closures.
House Republicans recently proposed a nine year budget, which cuts Medicare, a program President Trump said he would not cut.
Democrats are relying on ‘Medicare-for-all’ which uses government plans and private insurance, preserving employer-based insurance for those who want it.
Regardless of the plan, Americans just want lawmakers to act.
Mihir Bagchi, junior psychology major at Georgia State, said, “It’s really important that Medicare stays around to reduce premiums and we’ll need financial aid in times of crisis because without that they’d be forced to live in limbo in terms of progress in your family, medically.”
Bagchi’s comments, along with Hailey Sanders’, reiterates the concern Americans have approaching the 2020 election.
“In an ideal society we want taxpayer money to cover Medicare. Without Medicare, people will have to [pay] a lot more out of pocket. It will affect a lot of people financially who can’t afford better healthcare plans,” Bagchi said.