A Going Away Gift from the Bush Administration
by Phil E. Benjamin
The attack on Medicare and Medicaid; the two major federal health programs will not wait until January 21, 2009. It isn't even waiting until November 5th.
The reporting service, Congressional Quarterly, just reports the Facts that federal agencies make public. The problem is that Bush operatives run the federal agencies doing the reporting. And, this federal agency so dear to the hearts of Wall Street, insurance carriers and drug companies is the health industry. It is not quite as popular as the Defense Department contracts are to the Military Industrial Complex, but Medical Industrial Complex isn't far behind.
The overall administrative apparatus that governs the Medicare and Medicaid programs is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS]. In the hands of the Bush Administration you can be sure that the numbers and forecasts being put forward are in complete alignment with the profit seeking goals of the health industry. Remember, the last head of the CMS who engineers the disastrous misname, Medicare Modernization Act [MMA] left the CMS after the law was passed and went to work for a major insurance carrier. They truly have not shame.
Don't think for a minute that the growing numbers of uninsured and poorly insured are a worry of the industry. Their only concern is increasing their profits, which means increasing their privatization schemes. They never have and never will care about the wellbeing of people. Their advertisers say the opposite, but the people know the truth.
The day after the election when the dust settles; these grim statisticians will start appearing on all the news talk shows declaring the demise of both Medicare and Medicaid unless something drastic is done. Tom Brokaw, in the 2nd presidential debate, started that ball rolling.
The CMS is projecting a growth rate for these two programs higher than the economy in general. In ten years, as reported, the general economy should grow at a rate of 4.8% with Medicaid growing almost twice as much, or 7.9%. Medicare is supposed to grow 7.4%. Together the growth being put forward by the Bush Administration will be 6.7%.
Even with very strict enrollment rules, the Medicaid rolls will rise.
"The CMS report also projected that Medicaid enrollment will rise 1.8 percent to 50 million this year. Over the next 10 years, enrollment will grow 1.2 percent yearly, reaching 55.1 million by 2017. In 2007, per enrollee spending on non-disabled children covered by Medicaid averaged $2,435 and $3,586 for non-disabled adults. Medicaid's per enrollee spending for the disabled averaged $14,858 and $14, 058 in the case of aged beneficiaries."
Figures Will Hit the Headlines
The figure that will hit the headlines will be the $674 Billion cost of Medicaid by 2017 as compared to now: $339 Billion.
The cost of medical care in the US is totally out of whack. When private interests control a system; whether they be profit or so-called not for profit, the charging by hospitals and physician services bears no relationship to the actual costs of service. They load the costs with excessive administrative salaries; excessive insurance costs; out of control medical and equipment supplies; and the growing costs of borrowing from banks to keep them all afloat.
That is the fundamental problem.
Also, with practically no attention paid to preventive and primary care [getting people to a physician or nurse before a visit to the Hospital Emergency Room], the costs will continue to rise.
Also, environmental factors that make people sick and sicker are not seen as a health care issue, the problems will just mount.
A Radical Revision is Due
While the passage of Congressional laws such as HR 676 is a good first step, the importance of training of new physicians and nurses interested in primary and preventive care is essential. With the federal government footing the bill for those training programs, we can get more doctors and nurses to serve in communities by paying off their debt and hopefully staying on.
Also, putting strict requirement against physicians NOT taking patients on Medicare and Medicaid patients we can stem the tide and begin to do the right thing.
The prevention Occupational and Environmental health risks and hazards must start again to become important. Strict regulatory use of OSHA and EPA rules can help get health costs under control.
Standing Up to the Corporate Interests
But, only when elected politicians are forced to stand up to the power of the Medical Industrial Complex will change take place. We may have that opportunity after November 5, 2008, but the power will be in our hands, even then, to hold their collective feet to the fire. Organized labor, all labor unions, and peoples' community and neighborhood organizations must be mobilized to beat those corporate interests. That is the only way it will take place.
Let's start now; increase the pressure on November 5; and get reading to really engage the enemy on January 21, 2008.