Health Care Reform Rerun

, Alanna Hultz, Leave a comment

President Barack Obama’s health care plans may perpetuate the status quo in a way that provides little hope and change.

Thomas Hamilton of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services(CMS)
, which runs both programs, recently told a congressional committee that “Medicare and Medicaid together comprise the single largest purchaser of long-term care and we have a responsibility to ensure that the Long Term Care system provides cost-effective, high quality care that is responsive to the public and the needs of the individuals who require care.”

Long Term Care refers to the services and supports needed when the ability to care for oneself has been reduced to chronic illness, disability or aging, it is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. Hamilton also said “we need to focus on the outcome the consumer wants and focus on making community programs cost-effective, flexible and quality effective.” He continued “we need investment from the government to make sure it happens.”

For her part, Judy Feder, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, recommended to senators that they:

• “Extend medical support for home and community based care;

• “Improve service delivery for Medicare-Medicaid dual eligibles,

• “Add a long term benefit to Medicare; and

• “Establish a voluntary public long-term care insurance program.”

She told members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging that “assuring efficient, adequate and equitable long-term care financing is part and parcel of building our nation’s economic future.”

Medicare is a social insurance program administered by the U.S. government, providing health insurance coverage to people who are aged 65 and over or who meet other special criteria. Medicaid is the U.S. health program for eligible individuals and families with low incomes and resources; it is jointly funded by states and the federal government.

Both programs show evidence of a shortage in medical care for senior citizens. In Voodoo Anyone? How to understand economics without really trying, Accuracy in Academia’s upcoming textbook, Professor Christopher T. Warden pointed out that “30 percent of doctors would not take Medicaid patients in 2006.” Waiting lists and shorter hospital stays are evidence of a shortage in medical care for senior citizens, according to the late Professor Warden, who had covered health care for Investor’s Business Daily.

“From its inception, the cost of the Medicaid program has generally increased at a significantly faster pace than the U. S. economy,” Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for CMS stated late last year. “In 1970, combined Federal and State expenditures for Medicaid represented 0.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), 2.0 percent in 2000, and 2.3 percent in 2007.”

In their annual report for 2008, the CMS reported that:

• “Total Medicaid outlays in FY 2007 were $333.2 billion; $190.6 billion or 57 percent represented Federal spending, and $142.6 billion or 43 percent represented State spending.

• “Estimated average Medicaid enrollment was 49.1 million people in 2007. At some point during the year, 61.9 million people, or about one of every five persons in the U. S., were enrolled in Medicaid;

• “Per-enrollee spending for health services was an estimated $6,120 in 2007.”

According to CMS, one-fifth of state budgets go to Medicaid.

Alanna Hultz is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.