Don't rule out anything on Medicare
A new Senate bill takes potential fixes off the table

Article Highlights

  • [The CBO] continues to project explosive Medicare spending growth over the next 75 years

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  • Meeting Medicare’s budgetary challenge would become even more difficult under a new Senate bill, S. 2491, the Medicare Protection Act, introduced on June 18 by Sen. Mark Pryor

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  • One provision would express that the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased and that the program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system

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  • The bill’s other major provision would move beyond symbolism by restricting the procedures that Congress can use to adopt reforms

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Medicare, the federal government’s second largest entitlement program, is slated to grow much faster than the economy in upcoming decades. The sooner we address the pressing budgetary challenge posed by the program’s unsustainable growth, the better. Unfortunately, a new Senate bill would put up roadblocks on the path to reform by ruling out potential Medicare solutions.

Although the Congressional Budget Office’s new long-run budget outlook is slightly less dire than last year’s outlook, the agency continues to project explosive Medicare spending growth over the next 75 years. Under CBO’s extended alternative fiscal scenario, which reflects realistic assumptions about payments to health care providers, spending will rise from 3.0 percent of GDP in 2014 to 4.7 percent in 2039, 6.8 percent in 2064, and 9.4 percent in 2089. Spending on hospital benefits will far outstrip earmarked payroll tax revenue and spending on outpatient and prescription drug benefits, which are paid from the general treasury, will put severe stress on the overall federal budget.

This article appeared in US News & World Report on Thursday, July 17. It will be published here on Thursday, July 24.

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Alan D.

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