The first thing that needs to be said is that Medicare cannot be sustained as it is. If something serious is not done to add revenue and restrain growth (both of which are needed), it's the grandchildren of seniors that need to be concerned. Current seniors are safe, as neither President Obama nor Governor Romney propose changing current seniors benefits in any significant fashion. Of course, that will not necessarily be true for seniors in twenty years. Considering the unsustainable path of Medicare, which everyone acknowledges, when our grandchildren need Medicare in their senior years, they will have to pay much more in premiums to cover much less in benefits. What this means is that the longer politicians from both parties refuse to make the tough decisions necessary to truly reform Medicare, the solutions to the problem will become more extreme and painful, and our grandchildren will bear the brunt of the burden.
Both the plan presented by President Obama and the one offered by VP candidate, Paul Ryan have proposed ways to slow down the growth of Medicare. The problem is as FactCheck notes,
...there are reasons to doubt that either approach will work. Medicare's chief actuary has warned repeatedly that Obama's cuts to the future growth of payments to hospitals are too deep to be absorbed without adverse consequences. And Ryan's approach runs a risk of allowing insurance companies to siphon off younger, healthier seniors and burdening traditional Medicare with the rest.This is truly a complex and serious problem involving a complex and serious answer. I am obviously no expert on this subject, but it is my view that the best way, and I am inclined to say the only way, to save Medicare for future generations is a combination of serious additional revenue and cuts in benefits that are more than cosmetic. David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office says of both campaigns, "There's too much spinning and mud-slinging going on and not enough focus on substance and solutions." The commonality for the campaigns is: "We promised too much in Medicare; we need to reduce costs," says Walker. "What's the best way to do that?" We certainly have an obligation to our current generation of seniors and that obligation must be fulfilled. But do we not also have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to leave something for them? It won't be too many years until I am eligible for Medicare. I would gladly give up some of my benefits if it means my children and grandchildren will have them when they become seniors.
We need adults at the table for this discussion and the table must make a place for only serious thinkers from both sides of the political aisle. And if a solution is to be found the demagoguery on both sides must stop. Neither President Obama nor Congressman Ryan are proposing the destruction of Medicare. What they are proposing probably does not go far enough. Serious problems call for serious solutions.
My fear is that politicians will not be willing to make such difficult decisions until the only way to get elected and reelected is by making such decisions, instead of "kicking the can down the road." But that won't happen until candidates know that inaction and cosmetic solutions will get them thrown out of office by the voters; and that won't happen until our children and grandchildren are those voters.
Other members of the Political Roundtable and their responses: Arthur Sido, Bob Cornwall, Elgin Hushbeck, Joel Watts.