Monday’s Mtg: Is Medicare Safe Or Doomed?

Welcome to the heart of the 2012 presidential campaign!  Both the Obama and Romney campaigns swear that they want to protect Medicare and the other side wants to gut the program.  The one that persuades the public wins the White House (probably).

So, who’s telling the truth and who’s lying?  Or, is the truth somewhere in between?  One thing that’s not in dispute is that Medicare faces serious financial problems down the road unless real cost-cutting reforms are put in place.  (Note:  Medicare is NOT “going bankrupt.”  That language is highly misleading, as this explains).

Obamacare tried some Medicare cost-cutting measures.  These reforms include the famous $716 billion in “cuts” that Republicans keep hammering on.  The House Republican (a.k.a., Paul Ryan) budget would have made even more drastic changes, turning Medicare into a voucher to buy private insurance.  Romney, always hard to pin down, has embraced a somewhat less drastic plan for Medicare’s future.

On Monday I’ll open with a short lecture on the basics of what we’re talking about here.  I’ll quickly explain :

  1. What Medicare does, how it’s funded, and why it’s going broke;
  2. How Obamacare will change Medicare; and
  3. The fundamentally different way(s) that the GOP would reform the program.

Remember – you can hate the Republican proposals all you want to and call them all liars (I think there’s a lot of truth in that).  But, at the end of the day, someone has to do something to control Medicare’s cost growth.  The question is how to do that in ways that would (a) work, (b) be fair, and (c) attract public support.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. What does Medicare actually do and how is it funded?  Why is the program running out of money?
    .
  2. Democrats and Republicans seem to have chosen drastically different ways to fix Medicare.  What are the two basic approaches and why were they chosen?  Is the GOP way just a covert attempt to privatize Medicare?  Is the Democrats’ way realistic?
    .
  3. Obamacare:  What changes did Obamacare make to Medicare, especially the $716b in cuts to providers?  Why did they do this?
    .
  4. GOP ideas:  How would the Ryan budget have altered Medicare?  What is Romney’s plan?  Is this privatization?  Is it fair?
    .
  5. What is the evidence that increasing competition in medical care for seniors would be more efficient and lower costs without gutting quality?

LINKS –   

Easier

Harder/Longer/Wonkier:

  • The Medicare Bind:  Why the program is in trouble and how to save it in the long-run.  I recommend.
    .
  • Why vouchers and other conservative plans to use private markets to lower Medicare costs probably would not save as much money as Republicans claim (by a former OMB director).

I don’t want to spend the entire night debating numbers.  What really matters here, IMO, is that Left and Right have a profound philosophical differences on whether government-guaranteed health insurance should even exist!  Let’s debate that, too.

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