Obama on Medicare, Medicaid: ‘These Programs Aren’t in Crisis’

AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad
AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad

President Barack Obama gave Medicare and Medicaid, the federal and state health care entitlements for the elderly and poor, respectively, a clean bill of financial health in his weekly address on Saturday as he marked the programs’ 50th birthday.

“Today, we’re often told that Medicare and Medicaid are in crisis. But that’s usually a political excuse to cut their funding, privatize them, or phase them out entirely–all of which would undermine their core guarantee. The truth is, these programs aren’t in crisis.”

The government’s own data say otherwise.

As one official said recently: “…if you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up. I mean, it’s not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing.”

That official was President Obama himself, speaking at a press conference in 2011, in a rare moment of candor, perhaps prompted by re-election concerns.

The latest report from the Medicare trustees tried to put a positive spin on the program’s future, largely by assuming health care costs will rise more slowly (a promise that Obamacare has broken for consumers facing insurance hikes). Yet the report also announced premiums would rise over 50% for some beneficiaries in 2016. It also suggested that expenditures, which have tripled since 2000, could double by 2024, the Washington Free Beacon notes.

And in many states, especially Obama’s home state of Illinois, Medicaid is in a severe crisis–one only deferred slightly by the huge expansion of eligibility under Obamacare, which is only temporarily funded by the federal government.

In California, the state auditor found that the program, which now serves one in three residents, “cannot ensure it has enough doctors to serve its 12.3 million patients.” The Service Employees International Union–a reliable supporter of President Obama–said that Medi-Cal was in “both a health crisis and a moral crisis,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.

As former deputy secretary of Health and Human Services Tevi Troy noted last week in the Wall Street Journal, Democrats cannot hide the crisis, so they are resorting to “Mediscare” tactics.

In his address Saturday, President Obama made no mention whatsoever of future generations, and the burning questions of whether these programs will be around for today’s young people, and whether the huge costs they will impose on the country are worth it. It is a grim irony, since young people were so important to his election and re-election.

As Mark Levin notes in his new book, Plunder and Deceit, Medicare and Medicaid continue to expand massively, and “younger people and future generations will bear the brunt of the financial hardship.”

Levin points out that Medicare taxes younger people to pay for their future health care benefits, but the amount paid out is significantly larger than the amount paid in, making the program insolvent over time. Medicare also hurts the quality of medical care itself, as many patients can attest personally. There are huge incentives in both Medicare and Medicaid for fraud, and no incentives to control waste.

Obamacare took the same perverse incentives and amplified them dramatically. The system as a whole is going to collapse, sooner or later.

Even seniors are beginning to feel threatened. Obama said on Saturday that Medicare and Medicaid would be financially healthy because “And we’re moving our health care system toward models that reward the quality of the care you receive, not the quantity of care you receive.” In other words: the government is going to ration health care, according to panels of medical experts with supreme authority.

Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman has said that President Obama missed a grand opportunity, when he came to office, to unite the country behind entitlement reform. He would have had support from Republicans, and could have counted on the loyalty of moderate Democrats.

Instead, he spent his presidency attacking any new ideas for reform. He infamously invited Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to a speech where he attacked Ryan’s proposals as un-American, accusing him of hurting the old and the poor.

When the system collapses–as it must–Obama will have no answers for the millions who suffer as a result. His address Saturday, though, will at least tell future generations whom to blame.


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