Thursday, September 09, 2010

How ObamaCare gives seniors the shaft

Writing in the WSJ, Peter Ferrara and Larry Hunter use the report from Medicare's chief actuary, Richard Foster, to explain how the Democrats' policies are gutting Medicare.
In his analysis accompanying the recently released Annual Report of the Medicare Board of Trustees, Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary, noted that Medicare payment rates for doctors and hospitals serving seniors will be cut by 30% over the next three years. Under the policies of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by 2019 Medicare payment rates will be lower than under Medicaid. Mr. Foster notes that by the end of the 75-year projection period in the Annual Medicare Trustees Report, Medicare payment rates will be one-third of what will be paid by private insurance, and only half of what is paid by Medicaid.

Altogether, ObamaCare cuts $818 billion from Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) from 2014-2023, the first 10 years of its full implementation, and $3.2 trillion over the first 20 years, 2014-2033. Adding in ObamaCare cuts for Medicare Part B (physicians fees and other services) brings the total cut to $1.05 trillion over the first 10 years and $4.95 trillion over the first 20 years.

These draconian cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers that serve America's seniors were the basis for the Congressional Budget Office's official "score"—repeatedly cited by the president—that the health-reform legislation would actually reduce the federal deficit. But Mr. Obama never disclosed how that deficit reduction would actually be achieved.

There will be additional cuts under ObamaCare to Medicare Advantage, the private option to Medicare that close to one-fourth of all seniors have chosen for their coverage under the program because it gives them a better deal. Mr. Foster estimates that 50% of all seniors with Medicare Advantage will lose their plan because of these cuts. Mr. Obama's pledge that "If you like your health plan, you will be able to keep it" clearly does not apply to America's seniors.
Obama is trying to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to trumpet how ObamaCare will cut medical spending but he doesn't want people to know that those cuts come from spending on seniors. And he supports candidates who run ads flailing at Republicans for their nefarious plans to cut Medicare. That's mighty cute politicking, which Obama says he's good at, but it's not any good for policy.
The president's concept of spreading the wealth includes sacking the Medicare system, on which America's seniors have come to rely for medical care, in favor of others the president's progressive vision deems more worthy.

Everyone should know by now that Medicare suffers dramatic long-term deficits and unfunded liabilities, and is in need of fundamental, structural reforms. But effectively refusing to pay the doctors and hospitals that provide the medical care the program promises to seniors is no way to solve that problem.
And with the ill will that the constant attacks back and forth on Medicare engender, there is even less of a chance that either party will seriously address the problems affecting Medicare spending. The Democrats have for years scared seniors with their accusations of what Republicans would do to Medicare. Now that the Democrats themselves have enacted measures that are doing serious damage to Medicare and more and more doctors are getting out of the Medicare business, the Republicans can repay the Democrats for all those years of scare-mongering. And any hope of an honest attempt to address those funding problems for Medicare shrink even further.