Medicare issues need attention

Published 2:19 pm Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcome to a new stage of life, Baby Boomers.

Today, the first “Baby Boomers” are old enough to qualify for Medicare. And according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, more than two-thirds of those questioned fear they will outlive the program.

It’s a warranted concern

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Recent analysis show that what people pay into the system through Medicare taxes falls far short of covering the full value of medical care most expect to receive as retirees.

Consider a two-income couple, whose net annual earnings are $89,000. When they retire in 2011, they will have paid $114,000 in Medicare taxes during their careers.

However, in retirement they will receive about $355,000 in benefits, from presecriptions to hospital care. That’s almost triple the amount they invested in the program.

It doesn’t take a mathemetician to realize these numbers don’t add up.

Medicare covers 46 million seniors and disabled people right now. But, with the advent of the Baby Boomers, the last of whom will reach 65 in 20 years, the program will cover more than 80 million people. And the reserves available will not be enough to meet the demands.

It’s not as if this is shocking news: leaders throughout Washington know the crisis is looming, but they have failed to find a valid and sustainable solution. Even in the midst of the health care overhaul pushed through Congress last year by President Obama and the Democrats, no real solution was offered to the Medicare dilemma. Certainly suggestions were offered: shut it down, make big changes to limit benefits so the nation can reduce and limit its overwhelming debt. But the seniors who depend on Medicare are, understandably, opposed to significant changes and reductions in benefits.

So we find ourselves in a hole, and even though we know the first step to getting out of the hole is to stop digging, well, we just can’t seem to do that.

For the sake of the Baby Boomers, and the millions of Americans in generations to come, we hope someone will stop digging … and start finding a way out of the hole.