Medicare is facing $38 trillion in red ink. The recent Medicare trustees’ report showed the program is careening toward bankruptcy and will run out of money in 2024 — five years faster than the trustees predicted just one year ago. Not changing Medicare is not an option. Yet the prevailing wish appears to be that politicians will simply leave Medicare alone. But without a serious course adjustment, the program faces a steep and inevitable decline. Medicare will become a third-rate, price-controlled program that rations a lower quality of care through waiting lines and other restrictions. If Medicare's antiquated, open-ended, fee-for-service model isn't reformed, then we will continue to pour deficit-funded dollars into the program or raise taxes to levels that would topple the economy as millions of baby boomers hit retirement. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., recognizes that reality in his proposal to begin modernizing the program, starting 10 years from now. — Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
The traditional Medicare program, coupled with a supplemental private insurance policy, covers most of our seniors' medical bills, with far less in co-pays and out-of- pocket costs than private insurance. Therefore, proposals to privatize Medicare — like Rep. Paul Ryan's — have been met with fierce opposition, because it was revealed in the national media that privatization meant much higher out-of-pocket costs for seniors. National polls have shown strong general support for maintaining Medicare or even increasing funding for it. There are several ways to strengthen Medicare other than privatization. For example, research by respected economist Dean Baker shows that the federal government and Medicare beneficiaries would save $600 billion between 2006 and 2013 if Medicare were allowed to directly negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers. It would only make sense for there to be bipartisan support for Medicare to be able to negotiate down the rising costs of prescription drugs. — Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.