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Candidates know that Medicare faces woes

October 9, 2012
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

President Obama and his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, are accusing each other of plans to make major changes to Medicare - the medical care system for senior citizens. Plans that seniors won't like and that could imperil their care. Who's right? Both of them.

How's that?

Obama plans to reduce payments to hospitals and providers by $716 billion. In fact, that's already in the law, as part of the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare." Romney says this means a growing number of hospitals, nursing home and doctors are going to start turning away Medicare patients. And you don't have to believe Romney, you can go ask the providers.

For his part, Romney plans no changes for current retirees. He wants to put the $716 billion back into Medicare to avoid the aforementioned problem of providers refusing service to the elderly. However, for future retirees, Romney wants to move to a system in which Medicare beneficiaries get a set amount of money - a voucher -?to buy private insurance or choose traditional Medicare with basic standards of coverage. The problem is that the amount handed out to seniors may not be enough to match rising costs for health insurance premiums. If that is the case, beneficiaries would have to make up the difference, or receive limited coverage.

While both Obama and Romney try to score political points attacking each other, the basis for their maneuvers is simple: Medicare is going broke. Both realize something has to be done if the system is going to continue.

It is estimated that Medicare is underfunded by $50 trillion. That means the system's promises are far greater than what it can actually provide. Which means retirees and future retirees already face a crisis. All of our expectations of Medicare are going to have to change, like it or not.



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