By Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen
The Medicare program is a topic of a great deal of discussion this year. Created in 1965, its mission is to provide health coverage for older Americans. It's a program that I strongly support.
But over the years, politicians neglected Medicare.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare Board of Trustees both now predict that Medicare will be bankrupt by 2021 -- ten short years from now.
Part of Medicare's problem is demographic. In 2030, when the last of the Baby Boomers retires, there will be 77 million people on Medicare, up from 47 million today. But there will be fewer people working to fund the benefits of a much larger retiree population: In 2030, there will be 2.3 workers per retiree, compared to 3.4 today and about 4 when the program was created.
But a bigger part of Medicare's troubles is the rapid rise in health-care costs. Over the past decade, health-care inflation has risen 48%, while inflation in the broader economy has increased by only 26%.
Providing an increasingly expensive service to a rapidly growing population while drawing on a fast-declining pool of taxpayers is a sure fire recipe for insolvency.
The highly unpopular 2009 health "reform" law makes Medicare even more unsound. The so-called Affordable Healthcare Act took a staggering $500 billion from Medicare to pay for the new Obamacare health entitlement.
That's the wrong approach. It doesn't take a fortune teller to predict what will likely happen when these massive cuts in Medicare's physician and hospital reimbursement and the Medicare Advantage program begin next year: Medicare beneficiaries will suffer.
Access is already a problem. A recent survey of doctors reveals nearly a third of primary care physicians restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice mainly on account of low and unreliable government payment. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that more than 12 percent of its doctors simply don't accept Medicare patients, up from 8 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2004.
And the potential impact on access of much lower doctor reimbursement? In this area, the experience of the Medicaid program is instructive. Years of inadequate payment rates, below the cost of care at times, have contributed to widespread access problems for needy people for both primary and specialist care: inadequate payment is the most common reason for providers not to accept Medicaid patients.
Last summer, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released a study which found that the U.S. will need to add 91,500 new physicians in the next 10 years just in order to keep up with the demands of Obamacare!
There's no mystery here. Instead of shoring up the current health care system, the President overreached by establishing a new entitlement that our country cannot afford.
And if it that damage was not enough, the President's new healthcare law empowers Washington-based bureaucrats to ration Medicare treatments. That's a significant and troubling departure from the current program.
A new Independent Physicians Advisory Board (IPAB) is a group of 15 unelected bureaucrats, appointed by the President to six year terms, who will, in effect, have the power to ration health care. It should be up to patients and their physicians to determine what care is to be provided and how to pay for it. That's why I have cosponsored H.R. 452 to repeal this ill-conceived provision.
The future of Medicare is already very challenging. By enacting Obamacare, the President and his Congressional allies have violated their unofficial Hippocratic oath to "first do no harm.' As a result, millions of older Americans, who just want to continue to see their own doctor and have that doctor choose their treatment, will suffer.