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Medicare needs an overhaul, there’s no doubt about that, but Congress needs to step up with A Little Courage

July 15, 2008

No politician wants to alienate a large voting bloc during an election year - and senior citizens are feared especially.

That's why there is no doubt that a scheduled cut in Medicare spending will be rejected by Congress.

Doctors who treat Medicare patients, including tens of millions of senior citizens, were scheduled to have their reimbursements from the government reduced by 10 percent last week.

Health care professionals and advocates for senior citizens had warned that the move could make some doctors reluctant to accept Medicare patients.

But President Bush issued an order postponing the cut. Congress was expected to enact legislation to the same effect when lawmakers return from their July 4 recess.

Balancing budgets for social service programs on the backs of private-sector providers is an old, discredited technique. Yet it is one that Congress returns to year after year, because lawmakers lack the political courage to find other ways to control spending.

But while we do not agree with the strategy of simply reducing reimbursements to health care providers, it is obvious that something needs to be done to rein in Medicare spending.

During the 2006 fiscal year, the program accounted for $330 billion in spending - one-eighth of the federal government budget. New programs such as the prescription drug benefit have made costs escalate even more.

Don't look for anyone in Washington to suggest ways to curb Medicare's growth this year.

But the next president and Congress need to make such action a priority.



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