President Obama’s Not-So-Correct Claim About Medicare

Medicare Card Sample

“As Medicare and Medicaid celebrate their 50th anniversary this week, President Obama is knocking critics who say the programs need drastic cuts to survive, accusing them of making a “political excuse.”” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The above sentence is the first line in a CBS News story titled “Obama: Medicare crisis is only “political excuse”

The story continues with this:

“Today, we’re often told that Medicare and Medicaid are in crisis,” Mr. Obama said Saturday in a video. “But that’s usually a political excuse to cut their funding, privatize them, or phase them out entirely — all of which would undermine their core guarantee.”

“The truth is, these programs aren’t in crisis,” the president added. “Nor have they kept us from cutting our deficits by two-thirds since I took office.”

One doesn’t have to be a Republican or a conservative to figure out that President Obama didn’t admit to the entire reality pertaining to Medicare. Dr. Gail Wilensky directed the Medicare and Medicaid programs from 1990 to 1992. In a July 30, 2015 op-ed published by the New York Times, Dr. Wilensky states the following:

Dr. Wilensky op- ed in NYT

In a July 29, 2015 commentary published by the Wall Street Journal, Pacific Research Institute president Sally C. Pipes writes the following:

July 30 marks 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. The only birthday gift this middle-age government program merits is a reality check.

Health insurance for senior citizens was part of LBJ’s expansion of the welfare state, all in the service of establishing a “Great Society.” Yet many beneficiaries today are struggling to secure access to high-quality care. Future beneficiaries, meanwhile, are forking over billions of dollars today to keep a program afloat that may be bankrupt when they retire—unless fundamental reforms are enacted.

Johnson had high hopes for Medicare. It grew, he said, from the “seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick.” At the time, many people over 65 were unable to afford private health insurance. The president believed the new program would provide affordable, sustainable health care.

But Medicare spending has zoomed far beyond original expectations and is now anything but sustainable. In its first year, 1966, Medicare spent $3 billion. In 1967 the House Ways and Means Committee predicted that the program would cost $12 billion by 1990. It ended up costing $110 billion that year. Last year the program cost $511 billion, and seven years from now it will double to more than $1 trillion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The latest projections from Medicare’s trustees, released this month, project that the program’s main trust fund, for hospital care, will be exhausted by 2030.

In January 26, 2011, Richard S. Foster, Chief Actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, gave a testimony before the House Committee on the Budget, during which he told Congress, “Based on the estimated savings for Part A of Medicare, the assets of the Hospital Insurance trust fund would be exhausted in 2029 compared to 2017 under the prior law—an extension of 12 years.”

President Obama’s proclamation that Medicare isn’t in crisis is akin to President George W. Bush giving a speech about the war on terrorism in front of a banner reading “Mission Accomplished”. No, the mission wasn’t accomplished back then, just as the crisis facing Medicare hasn’t been eliminated. A reality check shows that the crisis with Medicare still exists, even if the can has been kicked down the road for 12 or 13 more years.

Speaking of a reality check, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders appears to be in need of one, too. In a July 28, 2015 story published by Vox, Senator Sanders gives an interview to Ezra Klein. Here is an excerpt:

Vox - Sanders interview

Contrary to what Senator Sanders says, the open-borders concept isn’t a right-wing proposal. Instead, the right wing has constantly promoted the opposite. Indeed, the right wing agrees with the Senator’s following assessment:

You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you’re a white high school graduate, it’s 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?

Senator Sanders and the right wing have finally reached common ground. It is a shame that the Senator is trying to turn it into mud.

Featured Image from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – Medicare & You 2010, official government handbook. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Screen shots of the New York Times website and the Vox website are the creations of this post’s author.

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