News Release

Medicare’s Birthday — Will Obama Cut Program?

This week marks the 48th anniversary of the enactment of Medicare.

GERALD FRIEDMAN, gfriedma at econs.umass.edu
Physicians for a National Healthcare Program released a statement this morning about a new study by Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, which finds: “Upgrading the nation’s Medicare program and expanding it to cover people of all ages would yield more than a half-trillion dollars in efficiency savings in its first year of operation, enough to pay for high-quality, comprehensive health benefits for all residents of the United States at a lower cost to most individuals, families and businesses.” See PNHP’s release.

CLARK NEWHALL, clark.newhall at health-justice.org, @cnewhall
DailyKos writes: “President Obama is touring the country, talking about the economy, job creation, and income inequality. But his administration is negotiating with Republicans in a last-ditch attempt to strike a ‘grand bargain’ to cut Medicare.” Last April, the Atlantic reported “Obama plans to cut between $200 billion and $380 billion more from Social Security and Medicare than Republicans in the next ten years.”

Available for a limited number of interviews, Newhall — who is a doctor and a lawyer — is executive director of Health Justice. He said today: “It’s ridiculous that Obama is continuing to employ this populist rhetoric while he’s actually negotiating cuts in Medicare. It should be the opposite — Medicare should be expanded to include everyone. … We will never make progress as long as both parties think of health care costs as a burden on the public purse. The big insurance companies have commanded them — and are paying them — to destroy public funding of health care except through the mechanism of subsidies to insurance companies.”

ROB STONE, grostone at gmail.com
Dr. Rob Stone just wrote the piece “Medicare Has Proved Itself After 48 Years,” published in the the Herald-Times of Bloomington, Ind. which states: “Who is the most popular health insurer in America? Not Anthem Blue Cross. It’s Medicare. And what insurer is the most efficient? Medicare again, operating at only 1.4 percent overhead, while the private insurers strain to meet the Affordable Care Act maximum overhead of 20 percent.

“While the Affordable Care Act struggles to be born, it’s worth looking again at how well Medicare works. Last year the respected journal Health Affairs published a study showing how Medicare performs better than private health insurance plans.

“According to the report, ‘Medicare beneficiaries are less likely to have cost-related access problems, high premium and out-of-pocket health care expenses as a share of income, and financial problems because of medical bills. And compared to non-elderly adults with employer-based coverage, Medicare beneficiaries are more likely to have access to a medical home — a primary care provider who knows their medical history well, is accessible, and helps coordinate their care,’ and are “far more likely to report excellent quality of care.’

“Medicare is not perfect and needs improvement, but it performs far better than the best of the private plans — the employer-sponsored health plans. Individual and small group plans have even worse performance. The Health Affairs article concluded, “Medicare is doing a better job than employer-sponsored plans at fulfilling the two main purposes of health insurance: ensuring access to care and providing financial protection.”

Dr. Stone is the director and founder of Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan and the state coordinator in Indiana for Physicians for a National Health Program. Dr. Stone practiced emergency medicine at Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital from 1983 to 2011. He currently serves as the medical director of palliative care at the hospital. Dr. Stone has been a national leader in the movement to divest from for-profit health insurance and is the national coordinator for the Divestment Campaign for Healthcare: HealthCareNotWealthCare.US.