Medicare Trustees: 'Trust us. Medicare is healthy'

Rick Moran
I like optimists. Their sunny dispositions and can-do attitude work like a tonic on old curmudgeons like me who always seem to find that the glass is half empty.

Ordinarily, we want optimists in government. Not only does it make the behemoth more pleasant to deal with but optimistic people also tend to be more competent than sourpusses.

That said, there is a huge difference between optimism and bat guano crazy, pie in the sky fantasy. Case in point - the Medicare and Social Security Trustees who issued a report on the fiscal health of those funds that was so fantastically optimistic, one wonders if they made their observations from the vantage point of an alternate universe.

An eye-opening editorial from Investors Business Daily:

ObamaCare extends Medicare's trust fund by 12 years to 2029, administration officials said Thursday in the annual report on Social Security and Medicare, ignoring that the extra savings and taxes are already earmarked for the new health law's major expansion of insurance coverage.Those savings assume much slower growth in health care costs to an extent that Medicare's chief actuary says may be unlikely. Meanwhile, Social Security's cash-flow woes worsened and its disability trust fund will run dry by 2018.

"The report seems rosier, but really what has happened is a shift of resources away from Medicare toward Medicaid and the new health care subsidies," said Bob Bixby, executive director of the fiscal watchdog Concord Coalition.

'Great Uncertainty'

Still, the report does hold out the longer-term hope that ObamaCare might slow runaway health spending - if all of its provisions are enacted and work exactly as planned.

That is an assumption which carries "great uncertainty," cautioned chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster in an accompanying report.

Foster characterized the report as "an illustration of the very favorable financial outcomes" possible if higher medical productivity gains are achieved in the long run.

"Actual future costs for Medicare are likely to exceed those shown by the current-law projections," he wrote.

The trustees - all Obama administration officials - also noted that the cost projections factored in a 30% cut in fees paid to Medicare physicians, something the administration intends to avert.

So lets get this straight. This rosey report is based on the idea that health care costs will rise slower than in the past - despite the fact this has never happened, budget cuts no one intends to make, and the perfect implementation of the extraordinarily flawed and imprudent Obamacare.

Got ya.

Liberals are already crowing about these overcooked, overripe numbers. Former WaPo blogger Dan Froomkin, writing at HuffPo, can hardly contain his glee:

The new health care law has significantly improved the prognosis for Medicare, extending the life of its trust fund by 12 years until 2029, and thereby delaying any need for dramatic changes in benefits or revenues, according to a new report.

The annual check-up from government actuaries overseeing the nation's two central safety-net programs also found that Social Security continues to be much less of a problem than Medicare, and will remain in strong financial shape at least through 2037.

As I wrote above, I like optimists. Froomkin would have been great as a passenger on the Titanic. ("Just a scratch, folks. All is well.") Note also that Dan fails to include the titanic caveats in the report, like Obamacare working to perfection and non-existent, never to be seen payment cuts to doctors becoming a reality.

Well, not on this planet anyway.

I think these Medicare trustees are in the wrong business. They should be weather forecasters. Never a cloudy day will be predicted if they take over the Weather Channel.





I like optimists. Their sunny dispositions and can-do attitude work like a tonic on old curmudgeons like me who always seem to find that the glass is half empty.

Ordinarily, we want optimists in government. Not only does it make the behemoth more pleasant to deal with but optimistic people also tend to be more competent than sourpusses.

That said, there is a huge difference between optimism and bat guano crazy, pie in the sky fantasy. Case in point - the Medicare and Social Security Trustees who issued a report on the fiscal health of those funds that was so fantastically optimistic, one wonders if they made their observations from the vantage point of an alternate universe.

An eye-opening editorial from Investors Business Daily:

ObamaCare extends Medicare's trust fund by 12 years to 2029, administration officials said Thursday in the annual report on Social Security and Medicare, ignoring that the extra savings and taxes are already earmarked for the new health law's major expansion of insurance coverage.

Those savings assume much slower growth in health care costs to an extent that Medicare's chief actuary says may be unlikely. Meanwhile, Social Security's cash-flow woes worsened and its disability trust fund will run dry by 2018.

"The report seems rosier, but really what has happened is a shift of resources away from Medicare toward Medicaid and the new health care subsidies," said Bob Bixby, executive director of the fiscal watchdog Concord Coalition.

'Great Uncertainty'

Still, the report does hold out the longer-term hope that ObamaCare might slow runaway health spending - if all of its provisions are enacted and work exactly as planned.

That is an assumption which carries "great uncertainty," cautioned chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster in an accompanying report.

Foster characterized the report as "an illustration of the very favorable financial outcomes" possible if higher medical productivity gains are achieved in the long run.

"Actual future costs for Medicare are likely to exceed those shown by the current-law projections," he wrote.

The trustees - all Obama administration officials - also noted that the cost projections factored in a 30% cut in fees paid to Medicare physicians, something the administration intends to avert.

So lets get this straight. This rosey report is based on the idea that health care costs will rise slower than in the past - despite the fact this has never happened, budget cuts no one intends to make, and the perfect implementation of the extraordinarily flawed and imprudent Obamacare.

Got ya.

Liberals are already crowing about these overcooked, overripe numbers. Former WaPo blogger Dan Froomkin, writing at HuffPo, can hardly contain his glee:

The new health care law has significantly improved the prognosis for Medicare, extending the life of its trust fund by 12 years until 2029, and thereby delaying any need for dramatic changes in benefits or revenues, according to a new report.

The annual check-up from government actuaries overseeing the nation's two central safety-net programs also found that Social Security continues to be much less of a problem than Medicare, and will remain in strong financial shape at least through 2037.

As I wrote above, I like optimists. Froomkin would have been great as a passenger on the Titanic. ("Just a scratch, folks. All is well.") Note also that Dan fails to include the titanic caveats in the report, like Obamacare working to perfection and non-existent, never to be seen payment cuts to doctors becoming a reality.

Well, not on this planet anyway.

I think these Medicare trustees are in the wrong business. They should be weather forecasters. Never a cloudy day will be predicted if they take over the Weather Channel.