Third Party & Independents Archives

February 28, 2005

Medicare/Medicaid: The real safety net crisis.

Why is President Bush pushing for Social Security reform which would add to current and future deficits given the fact that there is no Social Security crisis today, while the Medicare and Medicaid programs pose an extremely serious economic and financial threat now? There is a deep schism occurring between the nation’s state governors and the Whitehouse. Regardless of party, the nation’s governors are challenging the Whitehouse’s proposed cuts to Medicaid and lack of action on Medicare.

First, let's define what we are talking about. The Medicare Website states :

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers Medicare, the nation's largest health insurance program, which covers nearly 40 million Americans. Medicare is a Health Insurance Program for people 65 years of age and older, some disabled people under 65 years of age, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure treated with dialysis or a transplant).
And The Medicaid Website states :
Medicaid is a program that pays for medical assistance for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources. This program became law in 1965 and is jointly funded by the Federal and State governments (including the District of Columbia and the Territories) to assist States in providing medical long-term care assistance to people who meet certain eligibility criteria. Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with limited income.

There are a few major converging factors causing the crisis. The same demographics problems which will plague the Social Security system sometime between 2042 and 2052 will stress the sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid: a growing number of beneficiaries and fewer contributors. In addition, last year's drop in real wages for working Americans is putting more Americans into the means test eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid. One direct consequence of our nation failing to raise the minimum wage is large numbers of working Americans falling into that income range that fails to provide for private health care insurance or sustainable income in retirement, let alone personal savings. This problem is made worse by the fact that a growing number of aging workers are picking up minimum wage jobs at Wal-Mart's and Home Depot's across the country which is seriously affecting their ability to save anything for retirement or provide health insurance coverage when they do retire.

And the last, but probably greatest, contributor to the Medicare and Medicaid crisis is the unstoppable growth of health care costs. Len Nichols states (PDF):

In 2001, health care spending grew by 10% per person, the first double-digit increase in more than a decade.1 Experts on national health care costs are forecasting 7% to 9% annual growth in health insurance premiums for the next decade. ... Health care spending comprises 14% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Some projections indicate by the year 2025, health care costs will reach 19% of GDP. That means 1 out of every 5 dollars spent in America will go to a doctor or medical staff, hospital, health industry investor or administrator. Currently it is estimated that 1/3 of all health care dollars spent go to administration, and only 2/3 go for actual treatment of patients. Republicans want to claim that trial lawyers are the blame, and the Democrats want to claim that the insurance companies are the blame. While there is a kernel of truth to both claims, the truth about rising health care cost causes are far more complicated and diverse than such simple politically expedient explanations. But, that is the subject for another article.

Robert Tanner, AP writer had this to report about the impasse between President Bush and the nation's governors:

But consensus was elusive on either sweeping support or sweeping reforms. So far, governors agreed only to oppose the cuts and tentatively embrace elements of the budget plan that aim to drive down drug prices and discourage the middle-class elderly from relying on Medicaid for nursing home care.

Rather than spending dollars and political capital revamping Social Security, Bush should consider deeper changes to Medicaid, the nation's single largest health care program, several governors said.

"From where I sit, Medicaid and Medicare are much more pressing issues," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.

It appears to me, that America's form of government is incapable of managing the really big problems facing the majority of Americans today and in the future. Our politicians put nonsense pork barrel spending projects for local districts ahead of major issues like health care, retirement with dignity, and quality education for all of America's youth. When our politicians can find 1/3 of a trillion dollars to go free some Iraqi population from their dictator, but, can't even begin to agree how they are going to assist 50 million poor Americans in obtaining quality health care, our political system clearly has no integrity nor sense of responsibility when it comes to the needs of the people they represent.

But, it is not just the politicians. It is indeed the American people themselves to blame. They prefer identifying with the rhetoric of their favorite political team rather than fire the lot in the hopes of getting responsible leadership back into the halls of our government. America as a once great nation is in decline by a whole host of measures. So many other nations now rank higher than the US on a number of measures.

Yet, Americans don't want to hear that. They will defend their title of "greatest nation on earth" long after America has passed its point of no return toward third world status. The only hope Americans have is with a groundswell grassroots anti-incumbency movement that continues to kick politicians out of office until real solutions backed by real consensus amongst politicians is achieved. But, even this small glimmer of hope too seems to be fading as evidenced by the returns of the last Presidential election. I don't believe it is premature to begin mourning the loss of America's greatness.

Posted by David R. Remer at February 28, 2005 11:54 AM
Comment #45037

“Why is President Bush pushing for Social Security reform which would add to current and future deficits given the fact that there is no Social Security crisis today, while the Medicare and Medicaid programs pose an extremely serious economic and financial threat now?”

I don’t know about you David, but I’m beginning to think that the focus on privatized Social Security accounts has been something of a smoke screen so that what they’re doing in other areas won’t get quite as much attention. It seems clear that since there is so much opposition within the finance committee to SS reform (even among Republicans), it may shortly become a dead issue.

I strongly agree with many of the points you made in the rest of this article.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 28, 2005 01:04 PM
Comment #45063

Thanks for the comments, Adrienne. I reached the conclusion awhile back that Bush et. al. have set out an agenda to brink bankruptcy of the treasury and lower wage earning Americans as a means of ending all socialized programs like Social Security, Medicare, public schools, national parks and publicly owned lands, etc. What a windfall that scenario creates for the private sector fat cats who can afford to buyout and privatize all those publicly held programs and assets.

I mean even if it weren’t true, this administration is acting as if it is. Ergo, it probably is true.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 28, 2005 02:40 PM
Comment #45078

Why is President Bush pushing for Social Security reform which would add to current and future deficits given the fact that there is no Social Security crisis today?

Because he recognizes it as a Ponzi scheme and wants to end the total unfunding into infinity.

When you take a twenty out of your right pocket and place it in your left pocket are you richer?
This is simply all rhetoric about social security funds, Medicare funds and even defense funds.
It is all government expenditures.

Any benefit cut is just another tax increase. Any tax increase is just another benefit cut.
Its past time to get out. A child born today will revolt before carrying one or more retired on his/her back.

Posted by: George at February 28, 2005 04:11 PM
Comment #45083

George, your perspective does not address the millions of parents and grandparents who will be needing to move in with their children and grandchildren or die at the hands of some “charity”. Fact: Millions and millions of Americans have been saved from poverty under the Soc. Security plan.

Fact, if low wage earners are left to themselves to protect themselves financially against adversity both during their work lives and after, America will quickly begin to look like India with a dozen homeless, begging elderly on every downtown street in every major city of the country.

I appreciate your selfish desire to have your own money to spend whatever way you wish and to hell with everyone else, but, everyone else is also responsible for the great nation America became, so you have an obligation back to your fellow citizens. Want to live on your own resources, buy a deserted island somewhere and drop us an email from time to time. Ooops, that’s right, you probably wouldn’t have electricity. Well, anyway, enjoy your hermitage.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 28, 2005 04:25 PM
Comment #45088

“I reached the conclusion awhile back that Bush et. al. have set out an agenda to brink bankruptcy of the treasury and lower wage earning Americans as a means of ending all socialized programs like Social Security, Medicare, public schools, national parks and publicly owned lands, etc. What a windfall that scenario creates for the private sector fat cats who can afford to buyout and privatize all those publicly held programs and assets.”

As you may already realize, I agree with that conclusion completely.
The questions then become:
Is this what the majority of Americans really want?
Are they slowly but surely buying into the fat cats plan to privatize and simultaneously deregulate everything?
Do they feel this is the only way to achieve greater accountability and vast improvements?
And if the answer to those three is Yes, then how long before they realize that living in Libertarian-Style Anarchy Land was a completely insane notion?

Posted by: Adrienne at February 28, 2005 04:42 PM
Comment #45093

It is apparently what a slight majority of voting Americans want either directly endorsing the plan or indirectly, by remaining ignorant of the GOP plan but supporting the GOP anyway.

There is a point of no return with this plan, and my estimate is it fall right around that piece of legislation that commits the US to a path of achieving a 10+ trillion dollar national debt. Given that we are at 7 trillion, 700 plus billion already, that point of no return could possibly be realized while President Bush is still in office.

God help the president that follows him, because the very definition of point of no return means that there will be severe hardships to befall 50 to 100 million people in this country, or more, and no course of action will be able to alter it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 28, 2005 05:19 PM
Comment #45096

Adrienne, P.S., the reason I choose 10 trillion national debt is because that accrues about 3 billion dollars a day in interest payments on that debt, which translates close to a trillion dollars a year in interest payments. That kind of cash outlay from taxpayers which returns not one iota of goods or services to the economy, pretty much will spell hardship for a vast number of Americans.

With that kind of debt and interest, the government’s agility and ability to execute fiscal policies to counter adverse impacts on the economy are seriously, seriously limited. Very much in the same manner that a person earning 30,000 a year has very limited options when they accrue 120,000 in debts. The interest will keep digging them deeper and deeper into debt, and that is if they can find someone to borrow from to float each month’s bill statements.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 28, 2005 05:26 PM
Comment #45120

Jeeze David,

That is one frightening scenario. I hope you won’t mind if I’m wishing your prediction turns out to be wrong. Instead, I’d rather see the Republican’s find enough back bone to stand up against this administration before the country is completely bankrupted the way you’ve described.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 28, 2005 08:02 PM
Comment #45123

Have Faith!!! Trust in George W. Bush and the Republicans!!! Remember, GOD talks to Dubya!!! I am sure the Top 1% of Americans will be fine under this Administration.

Posted by: Aldous at February 28, 2005 08:37 PM
Comment #45133

Adrienne, your wish is the same as mine. I have had no wishes come true that I didn’t have to work damned hard to make happen, though.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 28, 2005 10:19 PM
Comment #45135

I know this is just a cause for concern for myself rather than the millions who are affected but I do have a question. How will this affect me when I start college at Georgetown in two years. It is 26k a year right now and I am not sure, other than selling insurance, that I could pay it. I am projecting that in four years, I will speak 8 languages. What should I consider as my options? Is France a good option being that I have a lot of family there? What about other countries in Europe? Canada?
I hope to hear from your response because I know you are a genius (although you will humbly deny that) but you are starting to scare me with this, unintentionally.

Posted by: Leon S. Blythe at February 28, 2005 11:02 PM
Comment #45236

Yes, Medicare behemoth must be dealt with.
Too much is spent on health care. Must means-test.

Yes, this country is in big troubles economically
and with trade deficits, outsourcing, etc. We must slice away at costs, salaries, profesional fees, govt. reitrment looting,etc. Also, must get all non-twnety year citizens off any govt. benefits usage.

As for univs. their fraud and con on this society is about over. Full employment and empire building by boomers screwing this society over one more way. (besides, at least 40% of the Programs and subjects that should be axed from univs.[a totally arachaic model.

Posted by: Alex at March 1, 2005 09:29 PM
Comment #45240

Leon, if the US is to avoid calamity, she will need every person capable of understanding what is happening to write or phone their Congressperson on each and every issue or piece of legislation that disturbs you.

The problem with moving to Canada or France or elsewhere, is that the global economy is so very intertwined with the US economy at this point. That may change, and if it does, Americans who can afford to move overseas will. But, unless foreign investors begin a steady drawdown on their US investments (as happened last month), prospects in other modern nations for non-wealthy working folks, may only be marginally better off if the US ship begins sinking, at best.

Therefore, the best thing anyone can do, in my opinion, is dump their party affiliation, and vote the candidate that best represents their interests, and keep giving feedback to the Congress Persons. As we have seen with Pres. Bush, party platforms and rhetoric are meaningless and one is just as likely to get a big spender Republican in office as fiscal hawk Democrat. Don’t vote party, vote the man or woman, vote integrity, vote on their history, but vote, even if you have to write in, “NONE OF THE ABOVE”.

It really is the only chance America has ever had or still has of getting responsible and representative people in office. Sen. John McCain (r), Sen. Joseph Biden (d), Justice Sandra Day O’Conner (i), Sen. Warner (r), and Rep. Harold Ford (d) are examples of folks currently in government who appear to me to be acting responsibly and representatively according to both their conscience and their constituents with Party affiliation being secondary. That is the kind of integrity we need to steer America away from decline.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 2, 2005 05:30 AM
Comment #45292

Hear, hear. Involvement needs to start at the primary level, however, not just once the candidates have been decided. I was all set to back McCain all the way, but the primaries ended that for me, as well as whatever affection I had for the republican party.

My problem is—how do you get involved at a primary level without selling your soul to the party? I guess maybe it just takes sucking it up and registering for one or the other, as then you’ll at least be able to make your voice heard. Or, to ask, how would you, as an independent, affect the selection of candidates given the selection process in place?

Posted by: brian at March 2, 2005 02:49 PM
Comment #45302

brian, great comments. You are correct, it does begin at the primary level.

My problem in trying to keep my integrity is as follows:

If I register for one of the Duopoly parties, I support their rigged ways of keeping politics as we know status quo. If I register as Indpendent, I have no say in who will likely be elected, same with third parties.

It is difficult. I have chosen to keep my integrity by remaining Independent. But, I have nothing but the highest regard for those who register Dem or Rep and then vote for the candidates based on the person, not the party, on the issues, not party solidarity. That is just as viable a solution to the integrity problem as mine.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 2, 2005 03:35 PM
Comment #45496

Bush Jr., needs the SS money, and anyother money he can rape from the people in the United States. He probably would take anyother countrie’s money if he could get away with that issue also.

Remember, old people are just that, old, and we are suppose to die off very soon. So Bush Jr. hopes. What drains our SS box of money, is the wars the idiot Bush Jr. has taken, and as he has done with many other programs in our money boxes, to fight his war games. He just has to keep the threat of another attack by ??, going, so he can try to keep the USA people scared, and do not pay attention as to what he is spending our tax dollars on. Some real big blunders have been made. So Bush Jr., needs to tighten his belt. Why doesn’t our Military have decently protect equiptment, and why are young men and women having to try to make the equitment they drive so that the equipment will protect those serving this country. I am sick of Bush Jr. and his so called ‘born again’ attitude, which relieves him of any wrong doing, and he is on a crusade, of war against everyother country except, England, France, hum? That does it, everyone else is fair targets!

Posted by: Delores Bryson at March 4, 2005 01:40 PM
Comment #45512

i agree w/david as the scare tactics use to hurd us their cattle/commodity that by the way they do not need as many work force w/the out sourcing of jobs they now global hoppers willing to soon give most of country back to indians. notice that movement? hey god bless them. we might the left behind be at their mercy and hope they show more than our forefathers. of course no coast lines given back untill 2 generations gone. no more demorcratic party as there will be no one left to serve and nothing to serve them with. if you did not make it on the stock market when they tipped the broker one million the most sales rodao drive had done since the 20’s then you most likely are not included in the movement, out of this country that is only 400 yrs. open to us. very young compare to england. we only have presidents. nobody throws out royalty they were the toughist kinships. talking about old time gangs. like the oligarchs that sent the german gang to infiltrait england to form this gang that still runs all. w/in ten yrs. we will be using the uro, 10 commandment issue. no more one of many. hell we are even questioning whether or not children, young youth are really ready to be deemed adults! getting us to question our very foundation will do what to whom? come on you know the trillions of your parents money was spent to figure these thigs out in the name of war. that war is here now those tactics are being used against you now. every 40yrs. they can get away w/some of the old tricks as we are reinforced to not listen to the elderly first by a lack of respect. remember we no longer need the greatest generation ever lived as will will never have to fight for freedom again. its everyone for themselves all over the world. unless you belong to a group. in nixon’s day republican were known as war mungers. just think no more morals and ethics to teach the kids. that was always so hard w/the laws lowering the age of consent to 16 no ethics taught in the schools to solitify what your parents just said. just the t.w. letting other peoples kids expose themselves for the money. the new ethics for the money. better start looking up our roots for dual citizenship. i know alot have thats how much bush gang scare people. right after they took what little joy we had w/his tactical shock and aw.

Posted by: gale at March 4, 2005 04:03 PM