Friday, July 25, 2008

Congress Does NOT Pull the Trigger on Seniors

Congress once again did the right thing and cast a vote for seniors in Medicare by setting aside the Bush administration’s flawed Medicare trigger proposal (required in privatization legislation passed in 2003) and the mandatory cuts it requires. Chairman Pete Stark says the trigger was passed solely “to do a hatchet-job on Medicare”. He’s so right.

The 45 percent threshold at which the “trigger” is set is a completely arbitrary limit included in the Medicare Modernization Act. There has never been a public debate on whether it is appropriate to establish a cap on the federal revenue contribution to the Medicare program at any level, nor has any policy rationale been identified for selecting 45 percent as that federal contribution limit. The fact that more than 45 percent of Medicare financing may come from general revenues poses no more of a problem in itself than the fact that 100 percent of the financing for defense, veterans’ benefits, education or most other federal programs comes from general revenues. The problem facing Medicare is the cost of health care, not how the cost is allocated between revenue sources.

Here’s reaction from our President Barbara Kennelly, after last night’s House vote suspending consideration of the Medicare trigger:

"The National Committee applauds Congress for postponing cuts which would have hurt millions of seniors who depend on Medicare while ignoring the real challenges facing our healthcare system nationwide. The 45% financing cap, mandated in Medicare privatization legislation passed 5 years ago, is arbitrary and meaningless in the larger debate of reigning in the high cost of healthcare. This healthcare crisis is crippling our nation and skyrocketing costs affect not only seniors in Medicare but Americans of all ages. This trigger is nothing more than a distraction from the true challenge facing Medicare: how will our nation provide high-quality health care for an aging population in an era of unchecked health care costs? We congratulate Congress for turning the tide away from arbitrary cuts and cost-shifting to seniors in favor of taking the longer view. Our National Committee members look forward to working with Washington to craft meaningful reform which will serve seniors in Medicare, their children and grandchildren as well."

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