Friday, February 13, 2015

Medicare and Social Security Costs? Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Combination of Factors Blunts Reform
Two words seem to be slipping from the Washington vernacular: entitlement reform.
There was a time, not long ago, when both parties were at least paying lip service to the idea that the Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs—their long-term solvency in peril, their contributions to long-term deficits and debt daunting—needed to be adjusted before they either broke the bank or failed future retirees.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, 
shown last week listening to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew 
discussing President Barack Obama's budget proposals, 
has composed budgets containing controversial plans to 
address Medicare costs. Photo: AP
Now a combination of factors has blunted the reform drive. Declining short-term deficits, the salve of slower increases in health costs, the sheer failure of repeated attempts to find bipartisan common ground on changes, traditional Democratic reluctance and the growing dependence of Republicans on senior citizens’ votes all reduce Washington’s interest in tackling this toughest of problems.
Yet the need isn’t going away; it simply has slipped out of sight for now.
The Obama administration last week proposed a budget that offers little in the way of new ideas or proposals to address the long-term balloon in entitlement costs. Instead, it largely leans on a belief that changes in Medicare contained in the Affordable Care Act and greater power to negotiate lower drug costs for Medicare will address the problem.
“We are accelerating a lot of reforms,” President Barack Obama said in discussing health costs an interview published by the Vox news site. “Using Medicare as a lever, I think, is creating an environment in the health-care field where we can start getting better outcomes and lower costs at the same time.”
Still, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says in its analysis of the new budget that it “does far too little” to slow long-term entitlement costs. The plan “does almost nothing to address Social Security and too little to slow health-care cost growth, the drivers of rising long-term debt.”
In coming weeks we’ll see what Republicans intend to do, when the new GOP majorities in the House and Senate try to compose a budget of their own.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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