The Future Of Medicare | KERA News

The Future Of Medicare

Nov 15, 2016

For half a century, Americans age 65 and older have relied on Medicare to pay for health care. Rising costs, though, have some wondering if the program will last.

On Think, Krys Boyd explored the topic with health journalist Trudy Lieberman. Her article, “Don’t Touch My Medicare” appears in Harper’s magazine.  

The KERA Interview

Trudy Lieberman on:

… the current state of Medicare:  

“Right now Medicare is in pretty good shape actually. Many changes that were made in the Affordable Care Act were made to help shore up the Medicare program. In fact, some of the costs actually did go down initially. I think some of the people who’ve studied this in some great detail believe that right now it’s kind of in a stable period. But looking long term it may not be in a stable period, because of the pressures on technology — the new machines, the new drugs, the new everything that’s coming on the market - that people apparently want, and the industry apparently wants. So, that is going to harbor dangers for Medicare in the long run in terms of controlling its costs.”

… the part of the program that needs work:

“We’re only talking about the hospital portion of the program, which is funded differently from the other parts of the program. The hospital program is funded by a payroll tax: 1.45 percent on wages of people who are working today, 1.45 percent on their employer. There’s a feeling among some people that there may need to be some incremental changes down the road in the pay roll tax to make sure that the hospital trust fund remains solvent down the road.”  

if Medicare is going bankrupt:

“We keep hearing a lot of the media say, ‘It’s going broke. It’s not going to be able to pay benefits.’ But the trustees report that just came out said that it would be able to pay 87 percent of the benefits that are planned at whatever year they’re all supposed to run out. I think people should keep that in mind that they are not going to lose their benefits whenever this doomsday thing is supposed to happen.”

… Donald Trump’s Medicare plan:

“We really don’t know what he’s going to do. He did say in talking to a group of Republicans a couple of years ago that anybody who thought they could come along and win elections by talking about changing Medicare and Social Security just wasn’t going to win any elections. I think we’ve seen in this particular election, as we are now finished with it, that there has really been very little if any discussion about Medicare. I mean I haven’t really heard it.”