Medicare troubles are a warning on health care

Those folks in Congress and at the White House who are eagerly finagling to pass a health-care reform package that would put this nation on the path toward universal, government-sponsored health care should take a close look at the report released Tuesday regarding Medicare — the universal, government-sponsored health-care plan for senior citizens.

The report by the trustees who monitor Medicare and Social Security predicted the Medicare trust fund will run out of money by 2017, just eight years from now.

The forecast demise of the Medicare fund is two years earlier than was projected just a year ago. The national recession, which has cost 5.7 million jobs since December 2007, has meant far fewer working people paying into the system and hastened the impending financial disaster, the trustees said.

Social Security is also facing a financial train wreck as more and more baby boomers retire and there are fewer workers to pay into the system. But that problem is still decades away, according to the trustees. The Social Security system is now expected to run out of money in 2037, four years earlier than was predicted a year ago.

People have been anticipating the financial problems with both systems for many years because of the millions of baby boomers who will soon be eligible for their benefits. The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan chaired an early bipartisan commission that studied the problem and offered possible solutions.

But it should come as no surprise that the declining economy and lost jobs are cutting revenue for both Medicare and Social Security, since both are funded primarily through payroll taxes.

The latest report on the trust funds — especially Medicare — ought to serve as a
warning to those who believe the government can operate a health-care system, paid for by taxpayers, that serves nearly all Americans, regardless of economic conditions.


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