Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pulling the Trigger on Medicare

Congress provided even more evidence of just how flawed the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act is this week when the leadership was legally required to introduce legislation, which experts agree, is doomed to fail.

As we’ve reported here before, there’s no economic or budgetary reason for the arbitrary 45% trigger provision, which will require massive budget cuts in Medicare. This trigger really is nothing more than a political device designed to convince Americans we “can’t afford” Medicare while also distracting attention away from the real crises; our national debt and skyrocketing healthcare costs. Kaiser has provided a good roundup of news coverage on this trigger legislation.

On Monday, House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, as required by law, introduced the trigger legislation, in spite of its certain death in Congress. He told Congress Daily, lawmakers can’t ignore the growth in Medicare and Medicaid costs but:

"Unfortunately, the Medicare trigger is ill-suited to such a process”, he said. "I am very skeptical that we can deal with the issue of entitlements in a bipartisan manner in the current environment, especially since the current administration has made it clear that it is not willing to discuss all options."

Let’s review those options not up for discussion. The administration still refuses to consider allowing Medicare to to negotiate for lower drug prices as the VA currently does. Why? It will cut into drug makers’ profits. But that provision could save Medicare an estimated $600 billion dollars over 7 years. The administration also refuses to consider eliminating the $149 billion dollar subsidies provided to private insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans. Why? It would cut into insurers’ profits. But that provision could save almost $150 billion dollars and add two years of solvency for Medicare.

See the common theme here? Triggers and cuts that hurt seniors and the programs that protect them in order to preserve profits and new privatized markets that help industry prosper.

Is it any wonder then that seniors are anxious to pull their own trigger come November?

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