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Medicare “Drifting Towards Disaster”: Says U.S. Sec. HHS

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Levitt said Medicare is lurching toward disaster. Secretary Levitt has studied the problem for eight years. He has tried to introduce some innovative policies along with some poor policies. It seems as if only the poor policies survive.

Medicare is lurching toward disaster and it is too late for the Bush Administration and Congress to do anything about it, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said on Tuesday.”

He said the next administration will have to act to stop rising costs and get control of the $400 billion federal health insurance plan for the elderly, which now covers 44 million people.

$400 billion dollars is twice the cost of the war in Iraq. This amount only partially covers 44 million senior citizens. There are deductibles and co-pays. The insurance premium for Medicare is almost as expensive as private insurance for persons collecting retirement plan money. Medicare is an entitlement that should not be expanded to 300 million people. Do the math. The cost would be $2,727,272,727,273 dollars a year and rising, in addition to the premiums and co- pay citizens would be paying.

"Higher and higher costs are being borne by fewer and fewer people. Sooner or later, this formula implodes,"
Leavitt said in a speech to the right-leaning Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute think-tanks.

It doesn’t matter if he was talking to a right or left leaning organization. It takes a blind man to see the wheels are coming off and no one is doing anything about it. All it takes is a little common sense to know something creative has to be done.

There are many innovative changes that can be made easily. One would be an emphasis on effective chronic disease management. Another would be effective malpractice reform in each state to decrease the need for physicians to practice costly defensive medicine.

A national health plan run by the government would do is stifle innovation and run up the cost. If we compound the healthcare problem by adding all U.S. citizens to a government paid for and directed single party payer system we will accelerate disaster.

“There is serious danger here," he added. "Medicare is drifting towards disaster."
"It troubles me that this matter is not receiving more attention in the presidential candidates' discussions. The next president will have to deal with this in significant part," he said.

Doesn’t Secretary Levitt know the presidential candidates do not understand the issues, the problems, the potential solutions? He should speak out. The solutions are easy if all the stakeholders’ incentives are aligned. The recognition of patients as the primary stakeholder is critical. The needs of the physicians as medical care providers have to be understood. The needs of secondary stakeholders have to be modified and adjusted.

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