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“Missed opportunity to fix Medicare”
Guest column: As I See It
The Medicare bill signed by President Bush last Monday represents a missed opportunity to put Medicare back on a sustainable path to provide excellent health care for seniors. Instead, this legislation will contribute to the decline in the quality of care and the financial stability of the Medicare system.
Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) applauds those representatives and senators who stood firm on free market principles and voted against the legislation which will make the real job of Medicare reform harder.
Medicare’s financial situation has been declining for a long period of time and the pace of that decline will escalate rapidly as the baby boomers retire. The most urgent health care need for seniors and near seniors is not a partial drug benefit.
It is the urgent need to develop a Medicare system that will not require deep cuts to doctors, nurses, hospitals and home health providers in the near future to keep the system solvent.
Politicians have already begun to drain the financial resources out of Medicare in an effort to save money. This will increase in the future. Doctor payments are cut and fewer doctors now see Medicare patients.
Hospital payments are cut below costs, and medical innovation slows and fewer hospital beds are provided. This legislation does not address these problems – and in fact makes them worse by adding on a large new expense to the already financially strapped system.
Congress needs to reform Medicare to create real choice and competition and to slow the rate of growth in Medicare spending without resorting to increased co-payments and provider cuts.
CSE had urged a “no” vote on the bill and notified representatives and senators that the vote would count as a “key vote” and would be reported to CSE members in their state. Key votes are used to determine eligibility for CSE’s Jefferson Award, which is given to legislators that espouse the CSE principles of limited government, lower taxes, and more freedom.
This Medicare bill is misguided and will ultimately do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the end result will be that many seniors will have fewer choices and will end up losing their existing drug coverage.
CSE President Paul Beckner said, “Our seniors, and the Medicare system they depend on, would be a lot better off if a few more members had the courage to vote against this legislation.”
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey is co-chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy.