Medicare turns fifty next week. It was signed into law July 30,
1965 – the crowning achievement of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. It’s more popular than ever.
Yet Medicare continues to be blamed
for America’s present and future budget problems.
A few days ago Jeb Bush even suggested phasing it out. Seniors
already receiving benefits should continue to receive them, he said, but
“we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move
to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going
to have anything.”
Bush praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to give seniors vouchers
instead. What Bush didn’t say was that Ryan’s vouchers wouldn’t
keep up with increases in medical costs – leaving seniors with less coverage.
Medicare isn’t the problem. In fact, it’s the solution.
Its costs are being pushed upward by the rising costs of
health care overall – which have slowed somewhat since the Affordable Care Act
was introduced but are still rising faster than inflation.
Medicare costs are also rising because of the
growing ranks of boomers becoming eligible for Medicare.
Medicare offers a way to reduce these underlying costs – if
Washington would let it.
Let me explain.
Americans spend more on health care per person than any other
advanced nation and get less for our money. Yearly public and private
healthcare spending is almost two and a half times the average of other
Yet the typical American lives 78.1 years – less than the
average 80.1 years in other advanced nations. And we have the highest rate of infant mortality of all advanced
Medical costs continue to rise because doctors and hospitals
still spend too much money on unnecessary tests, drugs, and procedures.