When it Comes to Our Nation's Budget Crisis, Medicare is Not the Problem

Jennifer Rudloff

Road Sign: ChangesYou would have to be living on a deserted island to not know that the Congress — specifically the House — and the Administration are playing chicken in the ongoing posturing over whether or not to increase the country’s debt ceiling. What makes this round of debate unique is for the first time in history, Congress has tied the debt ceiling topic to the budget process.

The positions of our elected representatives are unfailingly predictable. Republicans want to reduce taxes and spending, notably on entitlements; Democrats want to increase taxes and protect entitlement programs. In this debate, it is no surprise that Medicare [and Social Security] should be the center of the bullseye for each sides’ daily talking points. The rhetoric is hot on both sides. Unfortunately, with elections around the corner, officials are maintaining a focus on their campaigns. This can obscure facts and solutions and create barriers that keep officials from accomplishing what they were sent to DC to do. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Medicare, per se, is not the problem. Yes it’s expensive and yes the aging of the Baby Boom Generation will add millions of new beneficiaries over the next 25 years. But the simple truth is that there IS a way to reduce Medicare cost by more than a Trillion dollars over the next decade, without reducing benefits or capping provider pay. The approach derives from this universal truth: Healthier People Cost Less. And they don’t have to be a lot healthier to save a lot of cost.

In a paper published in Population Health Management this past February, the authors demonstrate the significant dollar impact of relatively modest improvements in modifiable health risks. The Trillion dollar savings is fully 25% of the package both sides say they want to reach. Why, one must wonder, is there little or no energy in that direction?

The well-being of our country is at stake. It's time that we see less brinkmanship and more leadership in DC.

Topics: In the News Healthcare Prevention Budget Crisis Medicare Advantage Government