With all of the heated rhetoric coming from Washington these days you would think there is a huge difference in the way Republicans and Democrats want to reform Medicare.
But did you know that over the next decade there is no difference at all between the agendas of the two parties? Although the House Republicans voted to repeal ObamaCare they did not vote to repeal the cuts in Medicare spending intended to pay for ObamaCare. So for the next ten years, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, to quote an all but forgotten political refrain.
Even more surprising, there is no difference between what the House Republican budget proposes and what Democrats voted for in last year’s health reform bill for anyone over the age of 55. It’s only young people who have a real stake in this fight. But as former Medicare Trustee Thomas Saving and I reported in The Wall Street Journal the other day, the cuts the two parties are proposing are so draconian, that there is little chance they will ever see the light of day.
In a way, that’s bad news. Absent politically unsustainable spending cuts, Medicare’s unfunded liability is almost $90 trillion at today’s prices, looking indefinitely into the future. That’s about six times the size of the entire U.S. economy. And Medicare spending is growing at twice the rate of growth of our national income. Clearly that cannot go on forever.
So what can be done? Fortunately, there are three common sense steps we can take that will give us substantial reform with a minimum of pain.
My colleagues and I at the National Center for Policy Analysis found we can solve Medicare’s financial problems this way:
-Using a special type of Health Savings Account, beneficiaries would be able to manage at least one-fifth of their health care funds, keeping each dollar of wasteful spending they avoid to spend on other consumption.
-Physicians would be free to repackage and re-price their services — thus profiting from innovations that lower costs and raise the quality of care.