Krugman Hypocrisy: 'Medicare Sustainable In Current Form' - But Only If We Make Changes To It

June 5th, 2011 9:31 AM

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman demonstrated perfectly Friday evening the double-talk required from America's left to convince the public Medicare is fine despite recent warnings by its Trustees that it will go bankrupt in thirteen years without major changes.

In his blog posting at the Times website, the Nobel laureate insisted the senior health insurance program "is sustainable in its current form" - as long as changes are made to what it covers, that is:

What is true is that the U.S. Medicare is expensive compared with, say, Canadian Medicare (yes, that’s what they call their system) or the French health care system (which is complicated, but largely single-payer in its essentials); that’s because Medicare American-style is very open-ended, reluctant to say no to paying for medically dubious procedures, and also fails to make use of its pricing power over drugs and other items.

So Medicare will have to start saying no; it will have to provide incentives to move away from fee for service, and so on and so forth. But such changes would not mean a fundamental change in the way Medicare works.

Got that?

It's sustainable in its current form - as long as it stops "paying for medically dubious procedures."

The problem is no one knows what those "medically dubious procedures" are, and once you go down this road with a program going under in thirteen years, many of these procedures that will be depicted "dubious" may be not so in the minds of the medical community and the public.

You'll therefore have a board of bureaucrats making coverage decisions for largely financial reasons that impact what Jane and Jane Q. Senior receives.

Sound like a fundamental change to you?

Unfortunately, what most Americans that aren't currently seniors don't know - as well as the overwhelming majority of the Medicare-loving press! - is that there already are things Medicare doesn't cover. As the following Medicare primer from the government states, this includes things like long-term care, hearing aids, routine dental care, etc.

Beyond this, on some procedures, Medicare only covers 80 percent of the cost requiring seniors to pay for the other 20 percent. This is why the vast majority of seniors - once again without the knowledge of America's know-it-all media - purchase what's called Medicare Supplemental Insurance:

As you may know, Medicare insurance will cover up to 80% of certain types of medical treatments, doctors office visits, hospitalizations, medical equipment and more. The exact coverage will depend on if you have just Medicare Part A or if you also have the optional Medicare Part B Coverage.

Even with this coverage, many people are left to pay significant out-of-pocket costs to cover the remaining 20 percent of the price of their services which is also referred to as the co-payment amount. Many people simply cannot afford to pay the co-payment in cash so they make use of one of the many Medicare supplemental insurance policies available on the market. A policy may be managed by one of many companies, but all fall under the guidelines of Medicare.

As such, private insurance companies currently offer policies to seniors to cover the gaps in what Medicare doesn't. This is a tremendously competitve market throughout the country offering seniors all kinds of packages at all kinds of costs.

This is important for a number of reasons.

First, as most media members are unaware of this, they tend to mislead the working age public into thinking Medicare covers all their health and medical expenses once they retire. This is not the case.

Furthermore, as there are things Medicare doesn't cover, using Krugman's "dubious procedure" model and a program going bankrupt, one can certainly envision a growing list of things Medicare A and B won't cover meaning more out-of-pocket costs to the aged consumer.

Also important is the idea that private insurance companies are indeed integrally involved in the health coverage of America's seniors, and are eager to be so because it's profitable.

One of the consistent media attacks on Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) Medicare reform plan is that giving seniors money each year to buy their own insurance won't work because private companies aren't interested in covering seniors.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We currently have at least three different senior health care programs covered by private insurers - prescription drugs, Medicare Supplements, and long-term care - that are operating with great competition producing numerous choices for the aged consumer.

Our recent experience with Medicare Part D - prescription drugs - has shown that involving private insurers in offering coverage to seniors can be quite successful as the premiums for this program are currently lower than what was anticipated when the plan was first proposed, and the actual cost to the federal government has so far come in under budget.

Imagine that.

Despite the predictable inflammatory hyperbole coming from Democrats and their ill-informed media minions, America's soon-to-be seniors should not only not fear private insurance company involvement in their future Medicare coverage, they should relish it because all the current examples of such participation are working just fine.

(H/T Hot Air)