Speaking at a New Hampshire event last week, when the topic of Medicare came up, Bush declared that the future of the social insurance program should only focus on optimizing it for its current beneficiaries, while replacing it with a more viable and sustainable system for those who should pick it up in the future.
The Presidential hopeful also was in praise of Medicare reform ideas from the current House Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan, who proposed offering future Medicare receivers the option to swap the program out with a system which offers them vouchers for private health plans.
Medicare is one of the country’s top social insurance programs and has helped with the costs of the elderly and disabled since 1966. It covers both hospital insurance and doctor visits, health equipment and other necessary health related costs for over 52 million people, out of which 43 million are aged 65 or older.
The theory endorsed by Bush states that rising healthcare costs coupled with a higher life expectancy will make Medicare lack sustainability in the long run. This is backed by some budget analysis centers such as the Center on Budget and Political Priorities and the Urban Institute; the former estimates that the whole Medicare trust fund will reach insolvency around 2030, meaning that past that point it will not be able to provide services for all those who would eligible.
Despite the fact that pessimism regarding Medicare’s sustainability has toned down in the last years, with fund deficit predictions getting lower and their reach date further away, the point of insolvency still is viewed by many as inevitable. This is why the Republican candidate thinks that Medicare should start being phased out before that point, and future beneficiaries should receive a more viable system rather than risk being arbitrarily left out due to the lack of funding, or having the system reach a brusque collapse.
However, solutions to the problem are intensely debated and have seemingly been deadlocked. Ryan’s proposal is continuously criticized as many think that individual dealings within the private healthcare system would never be as lucrative as a collective bargaining agreement. Other solutions are seemingly grey-ish: raising the retirement age to 67 would relieve some stress on the system, but would not be enough to save it while making life more difficult for the elderly, while the funds for those under the age of 65 receiving Medicare would still prove to be a problem. Accordingly, establishing cost control on the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, which are some of the main drives behind rising healthcare costs, could destabilize them to the point where medical/technological progress is slowed and jobs would be cut to make up for the loss in revenue.
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