By Dr. Harold Pease
Both parties have succumbed to the temptation of getting elected by promising ever more goodies from the public coffers, irrespective of constitutional limits, and to the point that they have irresponsibly enslaved our children with 15.25 trillion dollar indebtedness.
Everything is talked about in the presidential debates except this. We will just pretend it away. Why? Because both parties know that the cuts that have to be made to save the terminal cancer patient have to be drastic and advocating such to a population drunk with the idea that they are entitled to such is political suicide. Congress appears to be, or is, inept in solving this and other debt related problems.
Predicting a Super Committee failure, Freedom Works, a Tea Party affiliate, selected 12 of their own members and through the Internet invited 150,000 members to make suggestions on what should be done. Boldly they opened the unfunded liabilities door, Pandora’s box, the door neither party dares to open as potentially it could destroy career politicians and political parties.
What follows are their recommendations with respect to Medicare and Medicaid. Almost everyone knows that Medicare, 13% of the federal budget, growing at about 7% each year, is unsustainable. Formerly the favored method of controlling expenditures in this area was to limit reimbursement rates to healthcare providers rather than focus on fraud and the use of the free market to limit costs.
The Tea Party Debt Commission saw the Medicare program as outdated, inefficient, and corrupt and recommended six major changes that if followed would save, they predicted, $676,000,000 the first year and $2,030,843,000,000 in 10 years. These changes are first “let individuals opt out of Medicare under Senator Jim DeMint’s ‘Retirement Freedom Act.”’ Second, let all new Medicare beneficiaries after 2013 enroll in the Federal Employees’ Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) introduced by Senator Rand Paul as the “Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act.” Third, reduce Medicare subsidies to actual cost of hospitals’ graduate medical education. Fourth, maintain Medicare’s physician payment rates at the 2011 level. Fifth, convert the open-ended Medicaid program into a capped block grant to the states. And six, call on all states to reform their medical malpractice and product liability systems—tort reform.
Opting into the same Medicare program the members of Congress use, the second Tea Party change recommended, is much better for participants because it “relies on competing private insurers to provide benefits, and as a result has very little of the fraud and waste problems that plague today’s outdated and poorly designed Medicare system.” One wonders why Congress can make for themselves such a good system and leave us one with “somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of Medicare’s $450 billion annual budget being attributable to waste, fraud, and abuse….”
Converting Medicaid to block grants to states, Tea Party Debt Commission recommendation number five, is critical in stopping Medicare’s open ended liability. They argue that the program “has exploded into a semi-middle class entitlement that is bankrupting the states while providing low-quality care to poor families.” The conversion to grants “would give states the incentives and flexibility to focus scarce resources on those who truly need help.” It would also incentivize removing fraud.
Their answer to excessive medical malpractice awards that drive up medical costs for everyone was recommendation number six, state tort reform. They especially endorsed the “loser pays rule” so successful in the states that have it. Here those unsuccessful in winning frivolous lawsuits are punished thus discouraging such by others, especially lawyers, looking to benefit off the taxpayer. I once knew a woman who busied herself with multiple simultaneous frivolous lawsuits as a source of income because those sued would prefer to pay her, because it was less expensive, than to defend themselves.
Bottom line we can keep Medicare, even making it more efficient and sustainable, with six changes. It is not too late, but we need to realize our danger and move quickly to do so. Will Congress explore these changes with intent to make them? Not unless you ask them to do so.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org