U.S. Senators and doctors Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Barrasso (R-WY) and House Representatives Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Phil Roe (R-TN) released a report today warning that Medicare may not be able to pay health care providers as early as 2016 when the Medicare Trustee's estimate the Hospital Insurance could become insolvent. As the Congressional Research Service notes, "[T]here are no provisions in the Social Security Act that govern what would happen if that [insolvency] were to occur. For example, there is no authority in law for the program to use general revenue to fund Part A services in the event of such a shortfall."
"As a physician, I have seen time and time again that access to a government program does not equal access to health care. We are already seeing providers refuse to accept Medicare patients because the reimbursement process is broken. We can expect more providers to drop coverage if Congress and the administration do not take steps to shore up the program," said Dr. Coburn, who has authored a Medicare reform plan, the Seniors' Choice Act, with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). "Congress and the administration's refusal to reform Medicare are putting our patients, providers and economy at grave risk," Dr. Coburn added. "We can expect further credit downgrades if Washington continues to pretend there is not a crisis. As this report makes clear, insolvency would end Medicare as we know it since there is no legal means for the program to continue to pay all of its bills. The status quo, not reform, is the biggest threat to seniors' health care."
"It's clear now that the President's health care reform was not the entitlement reform that the White House promised. Instead, it raided over $500 billion from Medicare in order to create a brand new entitlement program for people who aren't seniors. This bad law put Medicare one step closer to bankruptcy under President Obama's watch," said Barrasso. "If Washington doesn't act, seniors will have a much harder time finding a doctor. It's time for President Obama and Congress to put politics aside and work with us on a solution to save Medicare."
"The demand for Medicare services is expanding at a very high rate, making the program insolvent and future costs unaffordable, which is putting our health care security at risk. As a physician and a lawmaker, I believe our common goal should be to save, protect and preserve Medicare," said Congressman Roe. "Instead of dramatically cutting Medicare dollars through programs such as the IPAB, which will lead to decreased quality and access to care, we should be looking at ways to save the program and improve the quality of care we are providing our seniors."
"This is a looming crisis that many in Washington are choosing either to ignore or politicize," said Congressman Gingrey. "The longer politicians block efforts to reform Medicare, the higher the stakes for our seniors. They deserve more, and so do America's future generations. Simply put, the time to act is now."