Medicare on Track to go Bust in 12 Years or Less

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2012

Week in Review

This election season we had the war on women.  Added to that in the coming years may very well be the war on seniors.  And unlike the war on women the war on seniors will be real.  Especially if Obamacare isn’t repealed.  Because the rising health care costs of an aging population will force rationing and death panels into the health care equation within the decade.  Or thereabouts (see Medicare trustee report hangs on uncertain assumptions by David Morgan posted 4/24/2012 on Reuters UK).

Medicare, the U.S. healthcare program for the elderly, should be able to stave off insolvency for the next 12 years, depending on a number of financial and political assumptions that may prove unrealistic, officials and other experts said on Monday…

But the outlook is based on assumptions that may be unlikely, including a scheduled 31 percent pay cut for doctors in 2013, which Congress is almost certain to override.

The forecast also assumes that a deficit-reduction agreement to slash Medicare spending by 2 percent a year can be sustained over the coming decade and that the U.S. Supreme Court will not overturn President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law in June.

Do you know why Congress is almost certain to override that 31% pay cut?  Because that pay cut is already written into law.  So unless they override it doctors will lose 31% of their pay on Medicare patients.  And will probably stop seeing Medicare patients.  Which is why Congress always overrides this pay cut.  Because if all our seniors lose their doctors this very large voting bloc will be very unhappy.  And they will make their unhappiness known at the voting booth.  By throwing every incumbent out of office.

Let’s do a little math.  Let’s say someone is turning 65 this year.  And that they’ve worked since the age of 18.  Which means they’ve paid their Medicare payroll taxes for 47 years.  So they paid into the system for 47 years.  A system that can only pay for 12 years of their retirement.  Which takes them to age 77.  While the average life expectancy is about 79 years.  Which means, on average, those turning 65 this year will not be able to consume any health care services in the last two years of their lives.  Of course the bigger problem is this.  What about those who are 53 this year?  Who spent 35 years paying Medicare payroll taxes?  They’ll get nothing when they turn 65.  Worse, they won’t get a refund for 35 years of ‘premium’ payments.  Which means the money we pay into Medicare is not our money.  They spend it on others long before we even become eligible for benefits.  Which will add generational warfare to class warfare as the politicians spend beyond our means to pay for it.  Pitting one ‘greedy’ group against another.  Until they all finally turn on the ones responsible for our financial mess.  The politicians.

Medicare will fail because the population is aging.  And as people live longer they can have more health problems.  You put the two together and it’s a big problem.  You expand Medicare into Obamacare and you have a train wreck.  A shrinking population of healthy, younger people paying ever higher taxes to pay for an expanding population of older, sicker people.  In a word, unsustainable.  

This isn’t Canada.  Or the UK.  We have more people.  Far more people.  The growth in government spending to pay for Obamacare will require taxes the private sector can’t pay.  This growth of government will cross the Rubicon.  And the U.S. will go the way of the Roman Empire.  Brought down by her own unsustainable government spending.  Throwing much of Western Europe into chaos for a thousand years or so.  And the sad thing is that history repeats.  Chaos is on the rise already in Europe.  As people riot in protest against cuts in unsustainable spending.  Which often happens when you take away benefits from people long accustomed to them.  This is a very dangerous road to be on.  And Obamacare is hastening the U.S. down this road to catch up with the Europeans. 

You’d think someone by now would have learned this lesson of history.

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Government and Unions can Take a Bad Situation and Make it Worse

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 27th, 2010

If you Think TSA is Dysfunctional and Unpopular Now, Wait Until it Unionizes

Question:  How do you make a bad situation worse?  Simple.  Add more government.  Or a union.  And if you really want to make things worse, add a government union.

The TSA is not very popular these days.  What with their nude imaging leering and their groping of our naughty bits.  They say it’s for our security.  But it feels more like we’re living in a police state.  But at least we can fire those who cross the line and enjoy these sexual assaults a little too much.  Well, for now, at least (see How to Make Air Travel More Infuriating by John Fund posted on 11/26/2010 on The Wall Street Journal).

But if you think TSA is dysfunctional and unpopular now, wait until it unionizes. This month, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that 50,000 TSA personnel will be allowed to vote on whether or not to join a union with full collective bargaining rights…

Imagine if every change in procedures had to be cleared with union shop stewards. While it is not easy to fire TSA personnel now, just think how difficult it will be to remove bad employees if they are covered by union job protection agreements.

I think I see something questionable in your groin, ma’am.  By the power invested in me, I will need to take a closer look.  We have no female agents available, so I will have to insert my man-hands into your panties and feel around in the name of national security.  But you can trust me.  I work for the TSA.  And if you have a problem with this, tough.  I’m union protected.

If You’ve been Sexually Assaulted, it’s Best that You don’t Wear Pantyliners During TSA Security Screening

Sure, I’m being silly.  I mean, what could be suspicious in a woman’s panties (see Sanitary Towel Prompts TSA To Grope Sexual Assault Victim by Steve Watson posted on 11/25/2010 on Prisonplanet.com)?

I recently traveled via air, and was subjected to that new scanning device. “No problem,” I thought. I was wearing jeans and a linen tanktop, bra, panties, and one camouflage pantyliner.

No doubt common for women to wear bras and panties.  And pantyliners.  Should be no big deal.

These new scans are so horrible that if you are wearing something unusual (like a piece of cloth on your panties) then you will be subjected to a search where a woman repeatedly has to check your “groin” while another woman watches on….

Well, I guess in the name of security we must make some women uncomfortable.  What’s the worst that can happen?  A mild case of embarrassment?

But what ultimately happened is that I was subjected to search so invasive that I was left crying and dealing with memories that I thought had been dealt with years ago of prior sexual assaults.

Oh.  It can be that much worse.  We can traumatize a woman by invoking memories of a sexual assault.  Maybe we should revisit TSA screening procedures.  Come up with something that won’t traumatize people.  Maybe look for bombers instead of just bombs.  Use psychological behavior to narrow down the number of invasive bodily searches.  You know, as long as the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t object, of course.

Doctors to Save Medicare by being Screwed by Government

All right, we know what a train wreck the TSA is.  Surely there are things that government does well, aren’t there?  Well, let’s take a look at a big government program.  Medicare.  The government is cutting Medicare payments to doctors.  The program’s spending is so out of control that these cuts are pretty steep.  How steep?  Enough to make doctors drop Medicare patients (see Doctors say Medicare cuts force painful decision about elderly patients by N.C. Aizenman posted 11/26/2010 on The Washington Post).

Doctors across the country describe similar decisions, complaining that they’ve been forced to shift away from Medicare toward higher-paying, privately insured or self-paying patients in response to years of penny-pinching by Congress.

Not only that, but the system is forcing doctors into specialties, depleting the ranks of the primary-care doctors.

On average, primary-care doctors make about $190,000 a year, kidney specialists $300,000, and radiologists close to $500,000, figures that reflect the income doctors receive from both Medicare and non-Medicare patients. The disparity has prompted concern that Medicare is contributing to a growing shortage of primary doctors.

But can you blame them for going into specialties?  Being a doctor is hard.  All that schooling.  Long hours during residency.  And they’re saving lives.  For which they get paid Bupkis.  Shouldn’t we pay them well after they go through all that hell?

“The argument that doctors literally can’t afford to feed their kids [if they take Medicare’s rates] is absurd,” said [Robert] Berenson [a Commissioner of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent congressional agency]. “It’s just that doctors have gotten used to a certain income and lifestyle.”

Easy for a government bureaucrat to say.  But look at the life of a doctor.

But, “the whole system would need to change. … I graduated medical school $100,000 in debt. I worked 110 hours a week during my residency for $30,000 a year and sacrificed all through my 20s. And even now, you’re still seeing people all day, with meetings and paperwork at night, on top of the emotional side of worrying when the patients you care for aren’t doing well. This is life-and-death stuff. And I feel like that should be compensated.”

This doctor failed to mention the lawyers constantly nipping at the heels of doctors.  And malpractice insurance ain’t cheap.

Doctors are Paid too Much?!?  Have you seen what Members of Congress Pay Themselves?

All right, let’s take a closer look at some of these doctors’ critics.  Members of Congress pay themselves pretty damn well.  And they don’t save lives.  Or work hard.  They get a lot of time off.  Lots of travel.  Lots of perks.  We can describe doctors as angels of mercy.  We describe a lot of these politicians, though, as scum of the earth.   And look at their salaries (see Boehner under fire: First cut should be lawmakers’ salaries by Jordy Yager posted on 11/5/2010 on The Hill).

The base pay for House and Senate lawmakers is $174,000, while majority and minority leaders each make $193,400 per year.

A run of the mill member of Congress makes almost as much as a doctor.  Considering what little a member of Congress does for that paycheck, who out there can say this is fair?

Unions and Government

The problem with unions and government?  They make life for the average Joe that much harder.  They protect their own.  And force others to pay for their elevated lifestyles.  And they abuse their power.  Always have.  And always will.  At least nothing in history has suggested otherwise.   

It sure gives you a warm fuzzy when you think about Obamacare coming down the pike, doesn’t it?

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