Tuesday, February 26, 2008

KFF rounds up editorials on Bush Medicare "reform"

      Several newspapers recently published editorials and an opinion piece on a Medicare proposal recently announced by the Bush administration.  Summaries appear below.  

  • Daytona Beach News-Journal: A "rich nation should care for its elderly in return for their lifetime of productivity for the country," but, "as the tax structure and Medicare stand today, the program may become unaffordable," according to a News-Journal editorial. The editorial states, "Keeping things as they are won't work," but "drastic changes aren't necessary, either." According to the editorial, a "combination of modest tax increases and adjustments within the programs can assure solvency far into the future." The editorial concludes, "The administration's overarching goal is to privatize the program, not to make it permanently solvent as one of the more successful government programs of the last 40 years," and, as "Medicare beneficiaries have every reason to back fair Medicare reform," they "also have every reason to doubt that this administration can be trusted to deliver" (Daytona Beach News-Journal, 2/22).
  • New York Times: The Bush administration "has just made several proposals -- some sensible, some not -- to reform Medicare financing and spending," but the "exercise is seriously hobbled by an ill-advised 2003 law that prevents consideration of some of the best and fairest ways to begin fixing Medicare," according to a Times editorial. Because of the way the law is structured, the editorial states, "Congress can't bolster Medicare with money generated by closing corporate tax loopholes or letting the president's tax cuts for the wealthy expire" because those measures would increase the amount of general fund support for the program and push it "over the arbitrary 45% cap." The editorial continues, "The worst proposals, a slew of provisions to restrain medical malpractice awards, look mostly like a jab at the trial lawyers who support the Democratic Party" and are "not apt to save the program much money." In addition, the "administration has made no effort to reduce the lavish and unjustified subsidies granted to the private health plans that participate in Medicare," and their elimination "could save Medicare far more general revenue money than reducing drug-program subsidies would," according to the editorial. The editorial concludes, "Congress needs to focus on ways to restrain the relentless rise in health care costs that is bedeviling all health insurers, including Medicare," and "Congress and the administration need to be able to consider all possible sources of revenue for Medicare -- on their own sound and equitable merits" (New York Times, 2/25).  
  • John Goodman, Wall Street Journal: "Rarely in Washington does the president get to propose legislation that Congress is required to fast track," but such an "opportunity exists right now" with a proposal to address "the rising costs of Medicare," Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, writes in a Journal opinion piece. According to Goodman, reductions in Medicare physician and hospital reimbursements "do not improve care and have not worked to contain costs in the past." In addition, although proposals to "promote electronic medical records, price and quality transparency, limits on malpractice awards and means-testing" for Medicare prescription drug benefit premiums are "commendable," they are "far from adequate," Goodman writes. Among other proposals, he writes, Medicare should "reward doctors and other health care providers who raise quality and lower costs" through "improving patient communication and access to care and teaching patients how to be better managers of their own care"; provide beneficiaries who have chronic diseases with "training, easier access to information, and the ability to purchase and use in-house monitors," efforts that would help them "manage their own care as well as, or better than, conventional physician care and at lower costs"; and revise the reimbursement system to remove the "many barriers to innovations in using those treatments efficiently and effectively" (Goodman, Wall Street Journal, 2/23).                         

Via KFF Daily Health Policy Report.


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