The Salem News
August 23, 2012
One of the most important issues facing the next Congress will be how best to ensure the future of Medicare. Members of both parties have “kicked the can” down the road on Medicare and other critical programs. If we really believe these programs serve a vital purpose, as I do, burying our heads in the sand is no longer an option. That’s why my priority as congressman will be to preserve, protect and strengthen this vital program so it is available for those who depend on it now and in the future.
The immediate problem facing Medicare is one of demographics. More than 10,000 baby boomers are enrolling in the program every day. As a result of this influx, over the next decade the number of enrollees will double from 35 million to 75 million seniors and the annual cost will increase from roughly $500 billion to close to $1 trillion.
Both parties have contributed to the situation we’re in with Medicare, as with many other government programs. Today isn’t the time to demagogue this issue or to call each other names for political advantage. Rather, we need to roll up our sleeves and go to work together to fix what is broken. It’s time for leaders to lead — and to level with the voters about the perils so many of these important programs face.
Given this stark reality, President Obama’s own Medicare trustees reported that if nothing is done to shore up Medicare, the program will go bankrupt in 2024. That is five years earlier than forecast last year. That could lead to an immediate 17 percent reduction in benefits.
Unfortunately, after decades of overpromising, overspending, and the accumulation of massive debt, the federal government is for all purposes broke and won’t be in a position to bail out the program. The financial management of our country is so poor that the government is currently borrowing 40 cents of every dollar just to meet basic operational expenses.
To make matters worse, when ObamaCare passed in 2010 Congress needed a way to pay for it. Congressman Tierney and other supporters of ObamaCare voted to take $716 billion out of the Medicare program and instead divert it to pay for ObamaCare. Unfortunately, his action further destabilized the program’s finances.
Then the Congress did something even more troubling by establishing a 15-member unelected medical review board with unprecedented powers to cut seniors’ access to care by dictating payment schedules and limiting access to treatments and procedures. It will act as a rationing mechanism for care and will interfere with decisions that are typically made between a doctor and patients. As a result, almost every major medical association in Massachusetts has called for repeal of this board. I, too, strongly oppose the board because America can and should do better than rationing our senior’s health care.
It is clear that the only way to ensure that Medicare remains solvent and is available for future generations is for leaders to step forward who are honest and willing to level with the American people. In the 1980s, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan joined with Republican Senator Robert Dole on the bipartisan “Greenspan Commission,” which tried to address Social Security funding issues. Now is the time for a new bipartisan approach to resolving Medicare’s funding issues.